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GEORGE FOOT MOORE, A.M., D.D., LL.D., Consulting Editor 






Reprint of Boston, 1927 original 





IN place of a preface, Dr. Holmberg has asked me to say 
that much in his account of Finno-Ugric and Siberian 
Mythology is the result of personal acquaintance with various 
tribes. In the summer of 191 1 he lived among the heathen 
Votiaks. In the summer of 19 12 he travelled in Siberia (Dis- 
trict Turuchansk) among the Siberian Arctic peoples. And in 
the summer of 191 3 he lived among the Cheremias. 





Editor's Note v 

Introduction xv 

Chapter I The Belief in Souls 3 

II Death and Burial 17 

III Memorial Feasts for a Particular Dead 

Person 37 

IV General Memorial Feasts 60 

V The Life Beyond 72 

VI Animal Worship 83 

VII The Seides of the Lapps 100 

VIII Family Gods 113 

IX Heroes 139 

X Household Spirits 159 

XI Forest Spirits 175 

XII Water Spirits 191 

XIII Gods of Sky and Air 217 

XIV Fire 235 

XV Deities of the Earth and Vegetation . . . 239 

XVI Deities of Birth 252 

XVII Sacrifices to Nature Gods among the Volga 

Finns 262 

XVIII The Shaman 282 


Introduction 299 

Chapter I World Pictures 306 

II The Origin of the Earth 313 

III The Pillar of the World 333 

IV The World Mountain 341 



V The Tree of Life 349 

VI Destruction of the World ....... 361 

VII The Creation of Man ■ . 371 

VIII The Fall of Man 381 

IX The Origin of the Mosquito 386 

X The Heaven God 390 

XI The Sons of God 402 

XII The Great Mother 413 

XIII The Stars 417 

XIV Thunder 439 

XV Fire 449 

XVI The Wind 457 

XVII The Earth 459 

XVIII The " Masters " of Nature 463 

XIX Dreams, Sickness and Death 472 

XX The Realm of the Dead 483 

XXI Shamanism and Totemism 496 

Notes, Finno-Ugric 527 

Notes, Siberian 545 

Bibliography, Finno-Ugric . 563 

Bibliography, Siberian 581 


(Full-page illustrations will be found at the end of the volume) 


I Grave-houses in Russian Karelia — Coloured Frontisfiece 
II A Karsikko or Memorial Tree 
III r. Lapp Grave 

2. Graves of the Northern Ostiaks Erected over the 
IV At the Grave. Ingermanland 
V Sacrificial Tree of the Dead among the Eastern Votiaks 

VI Bear Worship of the Voguls 
VII Masker's Frolic at the Vogul Bear Feast 
VIII The Holy Rastekaise Mountain in Utsjoki 
IX I. Lapp Seides Made of Tree-stumps or Posts, roughly 
Carved in Human Form 
2. The Rastekaise Mountain with two Sacred Stones 
X I. Samoyed Stone Family-god Clothed and Lifted on a 
Tree Trunk 
2. Family Gods of the Ostiaks 
XI Votiak Kuala or Sanctuary of the Family-gods 
XII i. Votiak Case for the Vorsud or " Luck-protector " 
2. Votiak Village or Great Kuala 

XIII Vorsud Case Venerated by the Votiaks 

XIV I. Remains of an old Votiak Sacrificial Kuala 

2. Vorsud Case of the Votiaks, with other Sacrificial 
XV. l. The Little Kudo or Dwelling of the Kudo-spirit 
within a Cheremiss Hut or " Great Kudo " 
2. Cheremiss Kudo 
XVI i. Ostiak Holy Place with Images of Gods or Spirits 

2. Ostiak Place of Sacrifice 
XVII i. Votiak Sacred Grove or Lud with Surrounding Fence 
and Gate 
2. Storehouse of the Ostiak Idols near Vasyagan 



XVIII I. Votialc Lud-kuala, formerly a Storeplace for 
Offerings, Sacrificial Vessels, etc. 
2. Votiak Lud-kuala, Birsk District 
XIX I. The Image of the Samoyed " Master of the For- 
est ", Carved on a Tree-trunk 
2. Cheremiss Horse-sacrifice to the Keremet-spirit 
in Time of Sickness 
XX The Aino Episode in Kalevala — Coloured 
XXI I. Votiak Sacrifice to the River Buj after the Break- 
ing-up of the Ice 
2. Votiak Sacrifice to the River Buj after the Break- 
ing-up of the Ice 
XXII The Eastern Voti'aks Sacrifice a White Goose to the 
Heaven God 

XXIII Ostiak Sacrifice of a White Animal to the Heaven- 


XXIV The " World-pillar " of the Lapps 

XXV Sacrificial Meal among the Russian Karelians 
XXVI Old Sacrificial Grotto of the Thunder-god among 

the Finnish Lapps 
XXVII Drawings on a Lapp Drum 
XXVIII Drawings on a Torne-Lapp Drum 
XXIX Ostiak Sacrifice 
XXX Cheremiss Sacrifice to the Field-gods 
XXXI The " Feeding " of the Sickle among the Chere- 
XXXII The Sacrifice-grove among the Cheremiss 

XXXIII Cheremiss Sacrificial Loaves, Bowls and Coins at 

the Festival to Nature-gods 

XXXIV Cheremiss Sacrificial Prayer 

XXXV A Cheremiss Priest Praying to the Accompaniment 

of a Stringed Instrument 
XXXVI Cheremiss Priests at the Festival to Nature-gods 
XXXVII I. Lapp Shaman's Bowl-drum. Front, Back and 
Side Views 
2. Lapp Shaman's Sieve-drum. Front, Back and 
Side Views 
XXXVIII The Living Sacrifice-tree Bound with the Sacrifice 



XXXIX Samoyed Shaman 

XL An old Turkish Image and Memorial Stone in 

North Mongolia 
XLI Boat-gods and Boats of the Yenisei Ostiaks 
XLII Tortoise-shell Shaped Stone Representing the 
World-bearing Tortoise 
XL III Old Turkish Memorial Image and Landscape in 

North Mongolia 
XLIV Old Turkish Memorial Image in North Mongolia 
XLV Phallus before a Mongol Monastery 
XL VI I. Dolgan Shaman Pillars Representing the Nine 
Storeys of Heaven 
2. Yakut Trees Representing the Storeys of Heaven 
XL VII Hides of Buriat Offerings 
XLVIII Shaman Drums from the Minusinsk District 
XLIX Shaman Drums from the Minusinsk District 
L Mongol Shaman with his Drum 
LI Mongol Stone Heap (obo) 
LII Dress and Drum of a Mongol Shaman 
LIII Shattered Tomb of a Yakut Shaman 
LIV Mongol Seer Prophesying from a Shoulder-blade 
LV Yenisei Ostiak Shaman with Drum. Front and 
Back Views 
LVI Buriat Shaman-tomb and Ongons 
LVII I. Buriat Shaman with his Hobby-horses 
2. Hides of Buriat Shaman-animals 
LVIII Dress of a Yakut Shaman. Back View 
LIX i. Breast Cloth of a Yakut Shaman 

2. Lebed-Tatar Shaman 

3. Drum of a Lebed-Tatar Shaman 

LX 1. Dress of a Yakut Shaman (Bird Type). Front 
2. Dress of a Yakut Shaman (Bird Type). Back 
LXI Dress of a Tungus Shaman (Bird Type). Front 
and Back Views 
LXII Dress of a Yenisei Ostiak Shaman (Animal Type) 

Back View 
LXIII Drum of a Yakut Shaman, Showing Inner and 
Outer Sides 




1 Ostiak Grave-house with Coffin of the Deceased ... 31 

2 Graveyard in Russian Karelia 33 

3 Lapp Christmas Custom 67 

4 Lapp Seide-stone 10 1 

5 Lapp Sacrificial Posts 108 

6 Sun Ring 225 

7 Moon Ring 227 

8 Lapp Sacrificial Board of the Thunder God 230 

9 Drawing of Heaven on Shaman Drums 250 

10 Sacrificial Bread 267 

11 Sacrificial Accessories 274 

12 Shaman Hammer 289 

13 Dolgan Shaman-pillars with Figures of Birds 334 

14 Two-headed Birds of Iron which Hang on the Dress and 

Drum of the Yenisei-Ostiak Shaman 335 

15 A Kalmuck World-picture 347 

16 Signs of a Twelve-division ed Period ......... 437 

17 The Tungus Thunder-bird 439 

18 North-Siberian Tombs 480 

19 Koori and Bucu, Spirit-birds of a Golde Shaman .... 509 

20 Dolgan Shaman-attributes and the World-tree with the 

Two-headed Lord of the World 511 

21 Head-dress of a Yenisei-Ostiak Shaman (Reindeer or Stag 

T yP e ) 513 

22 Head-dress of the Soyot Shaman (Bird Type) 513 

23 Tungus Shaman-boot (Bird Type) 513 

24 Tatar Shaman (Bird Type) in Minusinsk District ... 515 

25 Left Boot of Yenisei-Ostiak Shaman (Bear Type) with all 

the Bones of the Bear's Left Legs 517 

26 Shaman Drum with Bird-shaped Hand-grip 520 

27 Hobby-horse of a Buriat Shaman 521 

28 Relics of a Buriat Shaman Found in the Earth 521 



Finno-Ugrians, Siberians 3 







THE BELIEF of the Finno-Ugric people regarding the 
soul presents a very primitive concept. According to 
the Lapps, life does not cease altogether at death, but in some 
form continues as long as the skeleton remains, an example 
of this conviction being afforded, for instance, by their bear- 
feast; and in like manner they hold that the gods let new 
flesh grow on the sacrificial victim's bones, all of which are 
preserved with great care. 1 If we may draw inferences from 
the sacrificial ceremonies, this belief was formerly general 
throughout the Finno-Ugric stock. As an instance of the con- 
cept which holds that the soul vanishes when the body is an- 
nihilated we may cite the Vogul custom whereby, lest the 
bear should do grave harm to any one, the injured man, 
instead of worshipping the animal, endeavours to free him- 
self from it by completely destroying all parts of its body. 
Charuzin, who describes this usage, remarks that by it they 
purpose " to kill the victim's soul together with its body." ' 

This concept is likewise found in the cult of the dead. In 
his account of the burial rites of the Pite Lapps the missionary 
Graan records that for several years after the death of any of 
their number they crumbled barley bread into small bits and 
strewed it on the graves " until the sinking of the grave- 
mound showed that the body had decayed." * Among the 
Ostiaks, in like manner, the belief has been found that after 


the body has decayed the dead no longer survive. 4 Even at 
a very late period the Ingermanland Finns were wont to go 
to the burial places to weep and to carry food to the graves 
of their tribesmen so long as it was conceivable that the bodies 
had not yet crumbled; for after that they believed that "the 
soul itself ceases to exist." B If the deceased is supposed to 
be dangerous, the corpse is cut in pieces or even burned to 
ashes; and in a village in the Circle of Birsk the Votiaks pur- 
sued a like course after the lapse of several years in the case 
of a death which the sorcerers declared to have given rise to 
a severe epidemic. To this day the Ostiak Samoyeds fear 
certain corpses which are believed to go about at night and 
injure the living, though they become powerless as soon as 
the sun rises. A whole host of stories tells of contests be- 
tween such corpses and living men; but they may be prevented 
from rising out of their graves by being pierced with a stake 
and pinned fast to the ground. 6 

Side by side with this belief in a soul inseparably connected 
with the body, the Finno-Ugrians seem to have held that 
each limb and organ likewise had its separate soul. Accord- 
ingly, at a sacrifice a small portion of all the parts of the vic- 
tim's body was taken and dedicated, together with the bones, 
to the deity. Souls or (more properly) soul-powers are hid- 
den especially in the most important organs, such as the heart, 
the liver, and the blood; and the circulation of the blood has 
obviously given rise to the Cheremiss belief that the " soul " 
or the " life " (tson) can wander about within the body. If 
a blow which reaches some part of the body proves to be 
mortal, the " soul," according to this view, has been in that 
portion just at the fatal instant; but even though a man's skull 
were -fractured, the Cheremiss maintain that death would not 
ensue' if the "soul" chanced not to be in the head at the 
moment. 7 The concept of the material character of the quali- 
ties of the soul is also evidenced by the belief that one may 
acquire them for his own by devouring the organs containing 


the soul-qualities of another. Gondatti states that the ancient 
Vogul heroes ate the hearts and livers of their slain enemies 
" that their strength might be transferred to their own bodies 
and that the foe might never again be able to rise from the 
dead." s Beliefs regarding the potencies hidden in the heart 
recur in a Chronicle of 889, which states that the Hungarians 
cut the captives' hearts in pieces and ate them as some sort 
of remedy j and to this day the sacrificial priest of the Cher- 
emiss prays God to protect men against " those who cut out 
the heart and the liver." The same belief was doubtless held 
by the forefathers of the Finns, for among their Esthonian 
kinsmen it was still flourishing in the thirteenth century, since 
the Sakkala peasants are said to have torn the heart from the 
breast of a living Danish Crusader, and after roasting it, to 
have divided it among themselves and eaten it " in order to 
be brave against the Christians." By drinking another man's 
blood the Voguls and others believe that soul-powers pass 
from one body into another." Even in such insignificant parts 
of the body as the hair, nails, and teeth a soul -(or soul-power) 
is believed to lie concealed. How else could the means of 
guarding the soul against falling into evil hands be explained? 
Novitskiy expressly relates that a Vogul sacrificial priest 
warned his people against the Russian missionaries in the fol- 
lowing words: "Take care, my friends . . . when they start 
to cut your hair, they cut off your souls." In this connection^ 
it may be, mentioned that the Ostiaks believed that by scalping 
an enemy they could prevent his ghost from walking. 10 Even 
those objects which have been in contact with a man sustain a 
certain relation to the soul. Among causes of illness the Lapps 
recognize the power of a dweller in the underworld to take 
to himself some article of attire which has been in contact 
with the sick, such as cap, gloves, or boots; " and from this 
is deduced the magical theory of pars pro toto which finds 
application likewise in rites of sacrifice. 

In close relation to the remains of the deceased stands his 


shape, or shadow, which can occasionally free itself from the 
body even during life. Of a man who is unconscious the 
Cheremiss says that his " shape " or " shadow " (ort) has left 
him; and in like manner, if any one gives him a severe fright, 
he declares: " Thou drivest mine ort away." If a Cheremiss 
dreams of a city, he is convinced that his ort has wandered 
thither by night; otherwise, he argues, he could not have seen 
the city exactly as it is. Dreaming is also called " the ort's 
wandering "; and when the man awakes, his ort returns to his 
body. 12 

The ort of the Cheremiss corresponds to the urt of the 
Votiaks. If the urt does not succeed in coming back to its 
abode before the man wakes, he falls ill, is pale, and begins 
to pine away, so that a sleeper must not be aroused suddenly. 13 
In general the disappearance of the soul is regarded as a cause 
of grave illness, and in such a contingency it is advisable to 
have recourse to a magician or shaman in order that he may 
seek the lost soul and bring it back to the body. Sometimes 
it happens that the " soul " of the dying goes to the nether 
world, but returns after a while; and then the man recovers. 
Thus an Ostiak song tells of a hero who, in battle, received 
a sword-stroke on his head and lost consciousness. For a time 
his " shadow " ascended to heaven, only to return when his 
dead brother's "shadow" informed him that his hour was 
not yet come. 1 * A very wide-spread belief holds that the 
shaman's "shadow" can go to the underworld to seek aid 

The closeness of the connexion between a man's body and 
his " shadow " is shown by an account of Lapp shamanism 
which dates from the thirteenth century. This states, among 
other matters, that during a shaman's journey in the nether 
world a hostile " shadow " struck out the stomach of his 
"shadow," the mishap being clearly visible in the magician's 
real body, which was lying in the tent; 15 and several similar 
instances will be cited in a subsequent chapter on the shamans. 


Death does not in the least sever the bond of union between 
the " soul " and the corpse. When asked why the bones of 
the sacrificial victim are not broken, the Finnish Lapps 
answered: "On certain nights the victims which we have 
offered wander as ' shadows ' from burial-place to burial-place 
together with the folk of the underworld." 16 The general 
concept is that after death the " shadow " takes up its abode 
where the body has been buried. 

In Finno-Ugric belief man has also another soul which can 
release itself from the body, and which is called " breath." 
The source of this concept is to be found in the last expiration 
of the dying. At death the Ostiak lil t Vogul lili, Hungarian 
lekek, Siryan lol, Votiak lul (" expiration," " soul "), and the 
Esthonian leil ("expiration," " soul," " steam," cf . Finnish 
loyly, " bath-vapour ") leaves its abode through the mouth 
or nostrils; and " the breath's departure " is a common synonym 
for death. Obviously the " breath " was originally under- 
stood to be simply a vital function which revealed itself as 
respiration or vapour ; and Nalimov states that, in Siryan 
belief, at death the lol evaporates in the air like vapour. 

The Finnish stocks are convinced that when the soul 
liberates itself from the body, it can appear not only in a 
quasi-human shape — which is the form which it most fre- 
quently takes — but may also assume some other guise, often 
that of an animal. Nalimov has noted a Siryan tradition 
which tells how, while a woman slept, her lol came forth 
from its abode and in the form of a little mouse danced about 
on her breast. For a time her mouth was hidden by the cover- 
let; but the soul again transformed itself into vapour and thus 
re-entered the body, so that the sleeper could wake up." The 
Votiaks believe that one of the forms in which the soul appears 
during sleep is that of the bat; and an old Votiak declared 
that the reason why these creatures are never seen by day is 
because men are then awake; they appear only at night, when 
men are asleep. If a bat approaches any one, it is a sign 


that it is in reality the soul of some kinsman or acquaintance j 
and the old man just mentioned even related a tradition that 
the bat is, as a matter of fact, a soul-bird. " A man went to 
rest, but his companions sat up in the yard. They saw how a 
bat flew round certain places $ and when the sleeper awoke, 
they asked him what he had dreamed. The man declared 
that in his slumber he had wandered to the very places where 
the bat had flown, and from this his comrades inferred that 
the bat which they had seen was the soul of the sleeping 
man." Sometimes the soul also appears in the form of a little 
grey butterfly. In the Circle of Birsk the present writer 
heard it said that when the urt leaves a man's body because 
of severe fright, the services of a witch are sought, and she 
begins to spy after it with a white cloth in her hand. After 
she has hunted everywhere, she finally notices a little grey 
butterfly, and when she has caught it in her cloth, she takes 
it into the room and at night binds both cloth and butterfly 
about the sufferer's neck. On the following morning observa- 
tion of the shapes assumed by molten tin dropped into water 
determines whether the captive soul-butterfly is really the 
sick man's urt. 

In like manner the soul of a sleeping man moves about as 
a butterfly in a tradition recorded by the present writer from 
the Circle o£ Mamadysh. " Two men went to the forest to 
cut down trees, and at midday, while they were resting, one 
of them fell asleep, whereupon his comrade saw the lul issue 
from his mouth in the form of a butterfly and go to a pail 
of water which they had with them in the woods. From 
the water it flew to a cavity in a linden, thence back to the 
water-vessel, and from there to the sleeper's mouth. Waking 
from his slumber, he said to his companion: ( I was asleep 
and dreamed that I floated over a river on whose farther 
shore was a tree in which was a hollow containing many pieces 
of gold.' After finishing their work the men returned home, 
but a little later the comrade, who had seen where the sleeper's 


soul moved about the tree, went by night to the forest, sought 
out the tree, and there found a number of coins." 1S 

The " souls " of the dead have power of motion like those 
of the living. When a little grey butterfly was seen to come 
in by the window during the memorial feast in honour of a 
Votiak child's father, its mother said to it: "His soul has 
come in the form of a butterfly." It is also believed that the 
souls of the departed may find concealment in the guise of 
other sorts of insects, this explaining the Cheremiss custom 
that whenever many caterpillars begin to appear in the grain- 
fields, sacrifice is made to such of the departed as have died 
without leaving kinsfolk. A belief in soul-mice among this 
same people is implied by a similar offering which is given if 
many mice begin to be found in the yard." According to 
the Ostiaks, the deceased transforms himself into a beetle and 
is thus revealed to the living; and a like idea seems to have 
been known to the Finns, as is evident from a peculiar custom. 
Maidens are wont to take beetles in their hands and ask them 
whither they go to wed, hither or thither or "in the swart 
earth's bosom." If then the beetle flies to the churchyard, it 
is an omen of death. Similar beliefs occur among other 
European peoples. 

Certain Finno-Ugric peoples are also convinced that the 
departed appear as birds, and the Lapps tell how a dead man 
who had been buried on a small island and who haunted it 
by day flew across the water in the form of a great bird." 
Like wicked men the dead may likewise manifest themselves 
as wolves; and when the Votiaks drive away spirits which 
roam about at Easter, one of their cries is: " Go, wolves, go\ " 

" Souls " may also be seen in other guise than that of ani- 
mals, and the belief is very general that a man's soul may 
wander around as a whirlwind. In the Circle of Birsk the 
present writer heard the Cheremiss tell how a wayfarer hurled 
his knife into such an eddy, which, with the knife, immedi- 
ately vanished. The man continued on his journey till evening 


came, when he was about to pass the night in a hut along the 
road. There, to his amazement, an old man sat with a knife 
in his cheek; whereupon the traveller forthwith recognized 
his own knife and perceived that the master of the bothie 
was the old man who had wandered about as an eddy of wind. 
The soul of the living as well as of the dead can likewise fly 
around as a " fire-serpent," in other words, as a meteor. Ac- 
cording to the Cheremiss its course can be stayed by tearing 
.off the wristband of one's shirt or the band of ont's lime- 
bark ;shoes, or by splitting a wooden pitch-fork, together with 
which the meteor falls to the ground and is changed back 
into the man who flew about as the " fire-snake." In Siryan 
belief the soul (ort) of the departed may even manifest itself 
as a blue flame burning on the ground (or (-if, €t art's fire "). 

Shadow-souls may sometimes lose their original meaning 
by being transformed into the Doppel- ganger or tutelary 
genius oi the person in question. Thus the Siryan ort, in the 
form in which the popular mind now most usually conceives 
it, recalls the guardian spirit of the man rather than the real 
shadow-soul. Every one has an ort which constantly dwells 
near its protege, acting as a guardian-spirit j it appears in 
dreams, generally in the shape oi the person in question, and 
occasionally pinches blue spots in one's skin. In some places 
its abode is believed to be wholly separate from the man, 
whence the assertion is made, for example, that it has its home 
in birds. Yet one of the proofs that the ort was originally 
nothing else than the man's " shadow " is found in the belief 
that, after his death, his soul is blended with his ort, so that 
both form one and the same being. It is further believed that 
the ort of the deceased reveals itself in the form of the 
departed for forty days after death, and then vanishes. 21 As 
a portent of someone's death the ort manifests itself chiefly in 
the shape of a bird; and the same belief is found among the 
Voguls: " The urt lives in the forest. When a human being 
must die, his wt cries out; when a little child comes to his 


last hour, the urt speaks with a child's voice; if an adult 
passes away, the urt*s voice is that of an adult. Its exterior 
is parti-coloured, and its wings resemble those of a bat." 
Shamans can always see it near them. Should any one hear 
its call, he turns to it with the words: " If one of my kins- 
folk is to die, draw thou nigh to me." If some relative is 
actually the person in question, the urt approaches the inquirer; 
but otherwise it withdraws from him. According to Friis, 
the Norse Lapps called such a bird, heard by night lamenting 
with a human voice, a Suoje-lodde (" Suoje-bird "), the 
word Sueje being used in the Swedish Lapmark to denote 
the shaman's "tutelary genius," the appellation having 
apparently meant primarily "shadow." The spectres of 
shamans are especially liable to metamorphosis." 

The tutelary genius of a man is called Haltia (" Ruler ") 
by the Finns; and each individual has his own, which pre- 
cedes him. A man might be blessed with such a potent 
Haltia that, for example, it would reach home a little earlier 
than the man himself, whose approach it announced with 
clamour and crash. A man's Varjohaltia (" Shadow-ruler ") 
could inform him beforehand of coming events, as, e.g., 
whether he would reap a good or a bad harvest. It was be- 
lieved in some districts that a child made its own Haltia when 
it was three days old; before the expiration of that time it 
was dangerous to leave the infant alone, for a changeling 
might be substituted in its stead. That the Haltia manifested 
itself in the form of the culprit is obvious from such phrases 
as " it was not he, but his Haltia," or " the dead themselves 
do not walk, it is their Haltias which appear as ghosts." 

The Saattaja (" guide ") — an expression which is com- 
paratively rare — and the Onni (" fortune ") seem to denote 
precisely the same being as the Haltia; and a man's " fortune," 
which might be propitious or the reverse, never left him till 
death. Like the Haltia the " fortune " precedes the man and 
announces his coming. When any mischance happened on 


the road, the " fortune " warned its owner as he returned 
homeward, his ears beginning to ring, or his eyes or nose to 
itch, etc. The Haltia of the Finns has its analogue in the 
Radare or Ra (" ruler ") of the Swedes, and their Saattaja 
finds its counterpart in the Fylgja of the Scandinavians." 

The word employed by the Finno-Ugrians and peoples 
influenced by them to denote " shadow-soul " often means 
originally " shadow," " appearance," and " image." When 
the Yurak Samoyeds make images of the sun, moon, or human 
beings, they call them " shadows "; and the Vogul term for 
a man's "soul" {is, Finnish Use, "self") is also employed 
when they speak, for instance, of the " shadow " of a tree or 
of a house. The Ostiaks call their " earthly gods " and the 
wooden figures of these deities by a name {tongk) which 
originally meant " shadow "j and the word haamu, which 
signifies K shadow-soul " in Finnish, means " form," K figure " 
in Lappish and "countenance" in Mordvinianj while in 
Cheremiss the Tatar loan-word tys is occasionally employed 
to denote the " shadow-soul," though properly it signifies 
" countenance " or " image," as when it is applied, for ex- 
ample, to the leaden figure representing the sacrificial animal, 
as we shall see later. The Mordvinian word for " soul " 
(isopaisa) is also applied to the image of a god. 

If " soul " or " image " were thus an identical concept, it 
would be natural to infer that the prototype would be inti- 
mately affected by whatever happened to the image. Orig- 
inally the Finno-Ugric peoples were extremely cautious in 
regard to the delineation of themselves, and to this day many 
of them are most reluctant to permit themselves to be photo- 
graphed or otherwise pictured. A certain anxiety also lurks 
in the words which a Cheremiss girl repeats when she sees 
herself in a mirror: "Take not from me my appearance or 
image "; and this fear is especially associated with showing a 
mirror to a small child. By injuring their enemy's image the 
Lapps believed that they could cause their foe himself to 


feel pain. In the notes of the missionary Randulf we read 
the following account: "When the Lapp wishes to injure a 
man with whom he is angry, whether he dwells close by or 
far away, he employs for this purpose a little bow made of 
reindeer horn, together with the arrows belonging to it, one 
blunt and one pointed. If he desires to make his enemy's 
hand, foot, or other member useless, he shoots the blunt 
arrow into the corresponding part of the body of an image 
supposed to represent the person in question} but if his inten- 
tion is rather to cause an open wound or a constant subcutane- 
ous pain, he shoots the sharp arrow into the relevant portion 
of the effigy." 2 * 

Generally speaking, persons of superior importance, such 
as primal ancestors, shamans, and heroes, survive their bodies 
in images or " shadows " which are made after them. 

Just as men speak of the " shadow " or u soul " of a human 
being or of an animal, so various things are supposed to 
possess a "soul," which can free itself from the object to 
which it belongs. Thus, for example, everything which grows 
has its " soul." According to the Votiaks, the " soul " (urt) 
of the corn can assume the form of a little butterfly, pre- 
cisely like the soul of a man; and the Cheremiss speak, 
furthermore, of the " soul " (Srt) of the earth, fire, water, 
etc. When " souls " vanish out of the earth, it can no longer 
produce vegetation; if the "soul" of the water disappears, 
it begins to sicken and is turbid and nauseous to the taste; and 
if a man drinks of such water, he falls ill. Even the bothie 
or hut has its " soul," which flees if men are noisy and quar- 
relsome in the room. " You are driving the ' soul ' of my 
bothie away," cries the Cheremiss if any one commits a breach 
of the peace in his home. When the " soul " has fled, the 
bothie is no longer " happy," and " life is heavy there "; 
while no " soul " is found in a deserted, uninhabited house. 
In the fantasy of the Cheremiss the " bothie-soul (j>'6rt-ort) 
cannot assume any shape whatsoever. When asked what he 


means by the " soul " of the bothie, he answers that it is not 
any distinct entity, but the "luck," "joy," or "health" of 
the hut. Both farm-yard and threshing-floor have their 
" souls." When the former possesses it, " the cow-yard re- 
joices* the cattle thrive and multiply." Of the latter it is 
said that " where the ' soul ' flourishes, even small quantities 
of seed yield a blessing) but if it leaves the place, great heaps 
of seed wholly lack their proper usefulness." If no seed is 
found on the threshing-floor, neither is any " soul " dis- 
coverable there. 

According to the belief of the Finno-Ugrians, the very 
smallest things have a " soul." This explains the custom of 
breaking objects intended for the dead, such as wooden spoons 
and bowls, clay pots, and the like, " so that the departed may 
take them with him to the invisible world." Doubtless this 
reflects the concept that even things have an invisible part 
which is separated from the visible by being broken $ in other 
words, an object must be deprived of its life in order that its 
"soul" may leave it. Or, as in Mordvinian usage, the ob- 
ject which is given to the dead may simply be scraped with a 
knife, its " soul " being thus released. At the offerings in 
their groves the Cheremiss violently shake the objects em- 
ployed for the occasion j and when we recollect that the 
sacrificial victim which shivers, like the man who is frightened, 
loses its " shadow," we understand what beliefs are connected 
with this peculiar custom. Just as there is a " tutelary genius " 
of a man's " shadow," so there is a " nature god " of a " nature 
soul "j and water, earth, forest, tree, house, and the like 
possess a Haltia, just as we have seen the Finns apply the 
term to the Do-ppel-ganger of a man. 

The name must also be reckoned in the category of belief 
in souls, and this explains, among other matters, why the 
Votiaks call the rite of choosing a name " the seeking of the 
soul " {urt kuton).™ When a child cries a great deal or falls 



ill, or when a " mark " caused by the dead rises on its skin, 
this is interpreted to mean that it has chanced to receive a 
wrong name. To remedy this, sundry magic ceremonies are 
employed to determine what new name the child should re- 
ceive in order that it may thrive and recover. From the 
names which are enumerated during these rites, and which 
have usually been borne by departed forefathers, the inference 
may be drawn that the " soul " or " spirit " which is sought 
for the child is the soul of some ancestor. That this was 
actually true in the beginning is shown by the corresponding 
beliefs and ceremonies of the Lapps. They held that a preg- 
nant woman could indicate, either in dreams or through 
shamans, which of the kindred dead was willing to live anew 
in the child. The name was given by an old woman, who 
baptized (a later custom) the child, saying: " I baptize thee 
with the name of such and such a departed one. Mayest 
thou have the same fortune and happiness that he (or she) 
had in this world." In addition they believed that, with the 
name, the child received the " guardian spirit " which had 
once belonged to the former bearer of the name. " Guardian 
spirits " could also appear in visible form, as in that of a fish. 
Sacrifice should be offered to the dead whose name was given 
to the child. If the right name was not immediately found, 
the appellation cf the child might afterwards, in case of sick- 
ness, be changed several times. 2 * According to the Northern 
Ostiaks, after a number of years the spirit of the deceased 
could be born again to earthly life in a child belonging to his 
kindred ; and then the name of the dead man must be found 
in order that the child might thrive and be strong. 87 Side by 
side with this custom another is met with among the Eastern 
Finno-Ugrian peoples, according to which a name was given 
to a child from the first object or phenomenon to attract the 
attention of the parents or the midwife at its birth." 
That the giving of the name was a custom of immemorial 


antiquity among the Finno-Ugric peoples is shown by the 
fact that the word for " name " is common to them all, so 
that the Finnish term nitni, is actually used also in Samoyed 
{nlm). Probably it is the same word which also occurs in the 
Indo-European languages (namatt, dmpia, nomen, name, etc.). 


AMONG all the Finno-Ugric peoples, the customs and 
beliefs connected with death, though varying locally, 
will be found to possess certain general affinities. 

The most significant ceremonies arise out of a desire to do 
everything possible for the departed on their last journey, 
and from precautionary measures by the living against the 
dead, as these are believed to seek companions with whom to 
enter the other world. 

Immediately the " breath had departed," the Finns opened 
the smoke-outlets, in Russian Karelia the boards forming the 
roof of their chimneyless houses even being lifted three 
times, so that the soul might quicker fly away. The Estho- 
nian custom was to open the doors. If a wind arose while 
someone lay dying, it was called " the wind of the dead." 1 
The Permian peoples believed that on the death of a shaman, 
a storm was sure to arise, 8 

When a death occurs, the relatives of the deceased gather 
round the body. Forgiveness is implored of the dead one. 
The Cheremiss say: " Forgive me, be not angry with me if 
I have used hard words against thee." 3 Probably after a 
Russian custom, the Mordvins and the Ingrians, etc., im- 
mediately life has departed, place a bowl of water on the 
window-sill, "so that the soul can cleanse itself. "* More 
general is the custom of cutting the throat of a hen when 
death occurs. When this is done by the Chuvash, they say: 
" soul for soul and body for body " or also " this hen shall 
lead thy soul." The Eastern Cheremiss slaughter the fowl 
first at the gate, as they follow the dead to its grave, and they 


observe whether the hen remains within the courtyard or flies 
headless out into the road. The former is accounted a sign 
that a new death will soon occur in the house. At the spot 
where the hen is killed, it is believed that the deceased meets 
with the spirits of his departed relatives, which come forth to 
meet the new arrival. The reason for the actual act of 
slaughtering has been interpreted in different ways. Some 
say that the hen gathers together in the other world the 
nails of the departed, which have been scattered about in this. 
In other places, it is the custom to say to the dead at the 
slaughtering: " Save with this blood thine own blood from 
death! " With the first drops of the hen's blood, the Chere- 
miss paint the eyebrows of the dead. The fowl is not pre- 
pared for food, but is left lying on the road for dogs to feast 
on. 5 A later custom is the preparing of the flesh of the 
fowl, slaughtered at the moment of death, for the funeral 
repast. A relic of the hen-sacrifice is found among the Finns 
in Savolax, who, when the coffin is being borne away, cast a 
living hen on to it, to prevent the dead from taking the 
" poultry-luck " away with it." 

The dead must be escorted as soon as possible to the peace 
of the grave. The first service consists of the washing of the 
body of the dead, a practice followed by all the tribes, though 
it cannot be regarded as a purely Finno-Ugric custom. The 
person carrying out the washing is often chosen during the 
lifetime of the deceased. In some places, the left hand only 
is used during the performance. If any one of the persons 
engaged in the washing is displeasing to the deceased, the 
latter holds himself stiffly, clenches his fists, etc. Where the 
body remains soft and plastic, the washers are all agreeable 
to the dead. The corpse must be clad in clean garments, even 
down to its underclothing. The Volga Finns, like the Baltic 
Finns, accoutre their dead as for a long journey. A hat is 
placed on the head of the corpse of a male, and clean foot- 
wrappings are wrapped round its feet, which are fitted with 



lime- or birch-bark shoes; other clothes are placed with it 
also. The Votiak wife lays a clean suit of undergarments 
by her dead husband to enable him to change when necessary. 
The husband gathers into his wife's coffin kerchiefs for the 
head, towels, and trinkets worn on the breast. Many gar- 
ments and kerchiefs of all descriptions are placed in the 
coffin of a young girl, " as the men who have died unmarried 
are thought to be quicker in proposing marriage to girls with 
a bountiful marriage portion." A staff is placed in the hand 
of an old man. Naturally, all the tribes fit out their dead 
according to their scale of living, means and opportunities. 
The more northern peoples appear to have used very simple 
wrappings in which to swathe their dead. To conclude from 
remains dug up, the Lapps, in olden days, used only wrappings 
of birch-bark. In certain districts, both Lapps and the North- 
ern Ostiaks were accustomed to swathe their dead also in rein- 
deer- or bear-skins. 

In addition to clothing or protective swathings, the dead 
had to be supplied with provisions for the journey, and with 
money, weapons, and all kinds of implements and household 
articles. Among the objects laid with the dead may be men- 
tioned fire-tools, bow and arrows, an axe, a knife, fishing- 
gear, skis, a sickle, pots, dishes, wooden spoons, boats and 
vehicles, etc. The corpse was supplied with everything it was 
supposed to need. With women, distaffs, pieces of cloth, 
scissors and needles were laid; with children, toys. The lame 
received their crutches, a shaman his drum, a hunter his dog 
and his spear. Above all, the Volga Finns never forget to 
give the dead for their last journey the tools needed for the 
making of bast shoes. Smaller objects were laid in the coffin 
of the dead, larger ones were placed around the grave. In 
some places among the Cheremiss it was further deemed 
necessary to place a rod in each hand of the corpse, so that in 
the underworld it could protect itself against attacking hounds, 
serpents, or evil spirits. 


Among the articles and coins laid in the dead man's coffin 
by the Ostiaks were also some which were sent along with the 
deceased to some relative who had died earlier. It is said of 
the Cheremiss, that some of them poured nuts into the pocket 
of the dead man, saying while this was being done: " Greet 
our kinsmen when you arrive} we send sweets to their chil- 
dren; when you meet them, divide the sweets amongst 
them." 7 

A noteworthy custom among all the Finno-Ugric peoples 
is the breaking-up of all the objects which the dead receive 
with them. That a like usage was followed in Finland, ap- 
" pears from a report from Savolax, according to which, on the 
placing of the corpse on the sleigh, some object from among 
the most valuable in the house had to be dashed in pieces, 
with the remark: "This you may have, but nothing else." 
In this way the spirit of the dead was prevented from return- 
ing after the burial with any demands for his property. 
Similarly, in Ingria, when the master or mistress of the house 
was borne out, the spoon of the deceased was carried three 
times round the coffin, after which the spoon was broken and 
the pieces thrown after the coffin, with the words: "There 
hast thou thy portion, more thou shalt not receive." This 
was done that the dead might not appear afterwards and de- 
mand more at the division of the inheritance.* Apparently 
it was believed that by " killing " an article, its " soul " or 
" shadow " was released to follow the deceased into the world 
of shadows. 

An important part in the burial ceremonies is played by all 
kinds of protective measures, performed by the survivors ob- 
viously with a view to protecting themselves against dangers 
which the dead are believed to be able to cause. The belief 
of the Lapps that the dead wishes to take along with him 
" his family, his children, and his dependants " is common to 
all the Finno-Ugric peoples." A very widespread measure of 
protection is to cover, immediately death occurs, the eyes and 


mouth of the deceased. To prevent the dead from doing 
harm to its own with its glance during the time the corpse lies 
in the house, the Samoyeds cover its eyes with copper-coins or 
with small stones. The Ostiaks cover the face of the deceased 
with a cloth, in addition to covering the eyes, nose, and mouth 
with silver or copper coins, or with brass buttons. 10 The 
Cheremiss close the eyes and mouth of their dead, and cover 
the eyes, ears, and nostrils with little bunches of thread. The 
Chuvash act in the same way, saying: "If the dead over there 
ask of thee if there are others to come after thee, answer 
them: ' My ears heard none, my eyes saw nothing, my nostrils 
knew no scent.' " " Missionaries relate that when the Lapps 
covered up their dead in shrouds, they were very careful to 
cover up the body completely. 18 This was most likely done 
for fear that the soul of the deceased, which was supposed to 
dwell in the body even after death, would otherwise leave its 
dwelling-place and come to frighten those left at home. 

The Cheremiss are so cautious that as soon as signs of im- 
minent death are forthcoming, they remove the sick from 
their beds to a litter of straw. According to the Hill- 
Cheremiss the person dying on a bolster of down must reckon 
up the number of feathers in the coming life, and similarly, 
those dying on hair-mats must count the hairs of the same. 18 
Obviously, the removal of the sick to the litter of straw has 
its origin in the fear that death contaminated a bed. 

As a means of protection articles made of metal have been 
used widely. The Finns cast a copper coin in the water in 
which the corpse is washed. It was believed in some places, 
that unless one gave a copper coin to the person who washed 
the corpse, his hand would become diseased. 14 Among the 
Scandinavian Lapps, the one washing and covering up the 
dead had to bear, on his right arm, a ring of brass, given to 
him by some relative of the deceased " so that no evil could 
befall him." lB In Russian Lapmark the coffin and the grave 
of the deceased are prepared by such men whose womenfolk 


are not pregnant, or have ceased to suckle their children; 
otherwise, the child might be smitten with a mortal illness." 
A further very widely spread custom was that no one, often 
not even the neighbours, might go about his ordinary occupa- 
tions while the corpse was still in the village, but that every- 
one had to be prepared, if necessary, to serve the dead. 
According to the Samoyedic idea, it is extremely reprehen- 
sible to go hunting or fishing during a similar period; they 
forbid even the crossing of a stream." Among the Esto- 
nians it is strictly forbidden to chop wood, to heat the bath- 
house, to wash clothes, to sweep the floor, and to comb 
one's hair while the body is in the house. Neither is it suit- 
able to visit friends or to receive visitors. Even to sell, or 
give away anything from the house is forbidden during this 
period. 1 * 

If the corpse is kept over night in the house, no one may 
undress, but must, instead, watch by the body, as " if one were 
to lie down and sleep, it would be easier for the deceased to 
take one's soul along with him to the kingdom of the dead." 
Singing and shouting are also forbidden while the dead is in 
the house. The Cheremiss declare that the relatives and 
neighbours of the dead must sit silently watching by the dead, 
in order to see if the spirit of the deceased should return to its 
dwelling-place. If there is a mirror in the room, it must be 
turned round or covered, in order that the dead may not, by 
means of the mirror, look out a comrade for itself among 
those present. 19 

To prevent the dead from visiting their old home, many 
means of leading them astray are used. The Lapps and the 
Samoyeds do not bear out their dead through the door, but 
directly out under the canvas tent from the spot where they 
were stricken by death; in order that the dead and the living 
may not come in each other's way. The Lapps declare that 
were they to bear out their dead through the door, a new death 
might be expected soon after. 20 The Ostiaks removed their 



dead through the windows. 21 The Votiaks attempt to deceive 
their dead by removing the door through which the corpse is 
carried from its hinges and passing it through an opening on 
the side of the hinges." The Volga Finns were in the habit 
of placing the coffin on the end of a, log and spinning it round 
three times in a contrary direction to that of the sun. Often 
the footmarks of the funeral procession are swept away." 
The most general protective or cleansing measure is the strew- 
ing of ashes: thus both the Lapps and the Baltic Finns used 
to throw ashes and fire after those following the hearse. 2 * 
In some places, all tables, benches, etc., in the house were 
thrown down on their sides at the removal of the coffin. 2 " 
Against infection from death, articles of steel, axes and knives, 
or heated stones, glowing cinders, ashes, salt, flour, etc., were 
placed on the spot where death had stricken its victim. 2 * A 
custom of the Baltic Finns is to hammer in a nail in the place 
where death occurred, or where the corpse was washed, often, 
also, into the threshold over which the coffin was borne. The 
people say, that if a nail has been driven in where a death has 
taken place, no sickness need be feared if one happened to 
receive a shock there." 

The Russian Lapps leave their homes open and empty 
after the death of a member of the family. In earlier times, 
the nomad families would remove altogether to some other 
place. A mark, such as for example, a stone, would be left 
to mark the place of death.* 8 A more prevalent custom is to 
smoke a room, or to beat the walls with branches. When the 
Voguls smoke out their homes, they create a din at the same 
time, shriek, jingle sleighbells, and pound in every corner to 
drive away death. Among the Ostiaks the fire may not be 
allowed to go out for five nights when a male dies, and four 
nights when a female." The dread felt for death is increased 
by the belief that the relatives of the dead man who have died 
earlier come to take him away. The Lapps declare that they 
have actually seen these with their own eyes in the twilight. 


Generally, however, these spirits of dead relatives are in- 
visible to human beings, but animals can see them. 80 

When the Lapps transport their dead for burial the corpse 
is always placed in the last sled, 81 and among the Ostiaks at 
Tremyugan the escort never goes after the coffin, but before. 31 
The escort may not in any circumstances look behind it. 
Neither may the other inhabitants of the village look at the 
funeral procession through their windows. The Cheremiss go 
so far as to hide their windows with coverings in order " not 
to follow the dead one." 83 

Measures of protection are carried out also on the return 
from the burial. To prevent the dead from following the 
trail of the escort, all footprints are swept over at the burial 
mound. 8 * According to Lehtisalo, the Yuraks, on their return 
from a burying, are in the habit of going three times round 
the grave in widening circles. In addition, a gateway is erected 
"towards the night," or towards the north, with the saying: 
" Here is thy way, wander thine own way." Returning from 
a burial, one may not look back. To cleanse oneself utterly 
from the contact with the body, a gateway of two sticks is 
erected before the door of the tent. Through this the rela- 
tives of the dead must pass, taking with them all their 
belongings. 88 The Votiaks strike at one another at the 
cemetery gate with branches of fir, saying to the dead: " Go 
to thy home, do not remain with us." Or a branch of juniper 
is waved with the cry : " Come not with us, go to your 
home! "*" In some places, a channel is cut by dragging an 
axe or some other sharp instrument across the way or round 
the escort of the dead. When the house is reached again, a 
fire is usually made, over which one must jump, or the hands 
are rubbed with ashes, or a bath is taken. In Finland the 
coffin was sometimes carried to the cemetery between two 
fires of straw " so that the soul should not return home to 
disturb the sleep of the living." " 

The sleigh, or carriage, in which the corpse is transported, 


is either left at the cemetery, or must stand for at least three 
days in the village street before it can be used again." 

The Eastern Cheremiss have a custom, according to which 
they fell a tree on their return from a burial, leaving a 
stump about a yard high. This is generally done about 
half-way between the cemetery and the village, "so that 
the dead, when looking around, may notice the stump, and 
realize that his old home is still far away, and so return to 
his grave." " 

About half-way between the cemetery and a village, one 
sees very often among the Volga Finns, a place by the way- 
side where all kinds of objects, clothes, etc., have been placed 
on the ground or hung up in the trees. To this place the 
clothes worn by the deceased at his death, the bark-sponge 
used in washing him, the shavings from his coffin, and ob- 
jects regarded as having become infected with death have been 
carried. The Cheremiss say that were one to burn up the 
shavings gathered after the making of the coffin the deceased 
would break out in blisters or an eruption on his face. At 
these widely-feared places, the Votiaks sacrifice at times of 
serious illness. Also after certain memorial-feasts held at 
home, the bones of the sacrificed animal are taken to the above- 
mentioned place, where they are hung up in the trees. Thus, 
in some districts, sacrificial gifts have been laid down at this 
place instead of at the cemetery, where they really should be, 
and in many places even to this day, are laid. In the District 
of Mamadysh the Votiaks have erected little posts with a 
small table in front, to the memory of such dead as have died 
in strange places, "so that their souls may return to their 
native village." On the table, sacrificial food is placed on 
the anniversary of such deaths.** 

Among the Finns in Savolax and Karelia, a tree, the 
karsikko, on the road leading to the cemetery, was stripped of 
its lowermost branches as a memorial of the dead. Often, a 
cross would be carved on the tree together with the initials of 


the dead, and sometimes also the year of death. Or these 
might be cut on a piece of board which was then fastened to 
the tree. The practice of carving a cross for each corpse 
borne .by was carried out with the intention of preventing the 
dead from coming any nearer to their former home. Offer- 
ings were also made, or at least, everyone had to drink spirits 
to the memory of the dead. Strips of clothing, bindings, 
etc., were also often hung here. 41 

A similar custom prevailed amongst the Esthonians. In 
some districts the crown of a young tree was chopped off, in 
others a cross was carved in a tree by the way, or a nail 
hammered in, so that the soul of the dead should not 
approach any nearer home from the cemetery.* 2 

It is said to have been the custom in Savolax for a settler 
to mark out near his home a suitable thicket of firs to the 
memory of the dead. In a thicket of this description, which 
was called karsikko, a tree was denuded of its branches at 
each death of a dependant of the house, whether an adult or 
a child. Immediately such a tree was found in the thicket, 
offerings were made there to the dead. This statement, the 
origin of which is to be found only in K, H. Hornborg's de- 
scription, is not supported by actual folk-custom. Hornborg 
seems to have confused the karsikko of the dead with the 
so-called el'&tlifuu (Swedish vardtrdd), a tree planted in the 
vicinity o£ the house when first built, and to which sacrifices 
of first-fruits were offered, and every autumn that of a sheep. 
From this tree no branches were ever cut/* A growing fir 
or pine in Finland has its branches removed so that only the 
top remains in honour of one who for the first time is about to 
begin a long journey or some more important enterprise, such 
as hunting or fishing; and in Russian Karelia this is done also 
in honour of a bride. But to this karsikko-trtc no sacrifices 
were offered. 

Some kind of protective measure is probably also at the 
root of many customs, regarded nowadays merely as signs 


of mourning. The Ostiaks regard it as not correct for the 
relatives to go barefooted during the first week after a death. 
According to another report, Ostiak women wear their linen and 
head-kerchiefs inside out for five months (or fifty days) if 
the deceased is a man, and four months (or forty days) if a 


A custom now regarded as a mark of mourning is the 
Ostiak's refusal to gird his belt around him for five or four 
days, the time depending on the sex of the deceased. In 
some districts this is done " so that the dead shall feel itself 
lighter and freer." The Lapps have the same custom during 
the trance of the shaman and child-birth. Probably, the 
thought behind this Ostiak custom is that the journey of the 
dead to the other world will be unhindered by knot or band. 
For a similar reason, perhaps, the Samoyed and Ugrian 
women allow their hair to fall unbound during a burial.** 

A method of expressing sorrow among the Ostiaks was to 
scratch wounds that bled on one's own face. Novitskiy writes 
of this (17 1 5): " When anyone's father or mother, a husband 
or a wife, or any other member of a family dies, the relatives 
following the corpse to the grave seek to express their sorrow 
by tearing their hair, and, as far as is in their power, scratch- 
ing wounds on their faces ; the bleeding locks of hair are 
thrown by them on to the corpse." *" Among the Mordvins 
also the wounding of one's face was regarded as a means of 
expressing sorrow.*' These last, like the Orthodox Finns and 
the Siryans had the custom of singing " weeping-songs " to 
the memory of the dead. In the villages were often to be 
found women who made a profession of weeping at graves. 
The singing of special weeping-songs seems with these to be 
derived from the Russians, amongst whom the custom is 
general. The " weeping " at the grave is, however, ap- 
parently of older origin. In an old source it is written of 
the Voguls: "They wail and cry greatly after the dead." 
The Ostiaks customarily use the relatives of the dead as 


" weepers." The dead man is praised very greatly at the 
same time, and his works are admired. iS 

A strange custom of inquiring from the dead, who shall 
be the next to die, is often connected with the burial cere- 
monies. When the coffin has been borne out of the house 
into the yard, the Cheremiss place on it a bunch of pieces of 
thread of varying lengths, from which each of the partici- 
pants in the ceremony draws out a thread, saying: " Although 
thou perhaps didst die too early, do not take me with thee, 
see how long my thread is, let my life be equally long."* 9 
After burning the straw on which the dead has departed this 
life, the Esthonians look among the ashes for footmarks from 
which to make out whether a human being or an animal will 
be the next to die from the same farm.* The Finns kept an 
eye on the horse that drew the hearse; if it lifted its left foot 
first, it was a sign that someone from the village would soon 
follow the dead. 61 The Ostiaks attempt to obtain answers 
from the corpse to certain questions, by lifting the lid of the 
coffin in which the dead lies. Before they transport the dead 
to the graveyard, they tie a rope round the coffin at the place 
where the head of the corpse should be, and by the grip thus 
formed one of the persons present tries to lift the coffin, each 
time he does so directing a question at the deceased, for ex- 
ample: " Was it a spirit, that took thee? " or " Shall we all 
live to the next year? " and should the answer to this last 
question be in the negative: "Tell me, who will be the 
next to die? " after which the names of all present are called 
out at each attempt to lift the coffin. Should the coffin appear 
to be heavy, it is regarded as an answer in the negative; if 
the contrary, as assent. 88 

It is, further, the duty of the survivors to take care of the 
dwelling-place of the dead. According to the most wide- 
spread custom now, the dead are buried in a coffin in the 
ground. The coffin, called the " house " of the dead, is made 
of boards; at each side the Karelians, Volga Finns, etc., make 



a little square hole, the " window," " through which light 
reaches to the house of the dead," and " through which they 
can observe what happens around them." When the Chere- 
F miss makes the coffin, he says : " Now do I make thee a 

house, be not angry if it please thee not." ** 
'■ When the Cheremiss lift the corpse into the coffin, they 

speak a few words to the memory of the deceased and wish 
I him a happy destination: " Farewell (with the name of the 

.; deceased)! Over there may you enjoy a light, happy, good 

j and warm existence. Leave us not, but come and inform us 

i. in our dreams, how joyful and pleasing thy life beyond the 

t grave has become! " Other wishes are also expressed: " Let 

us not die too early, return not to us, make friends for thyself 
t among the other dead! " ** 

To an unmarried young man the parents say: "In this 
life we had not time to give thee away in marriage; choose for 
thyself a good wife over there." In certain districts the un- 
married dead are escorted to the cemetery with the ceremony 
attaching to a wedding. The horses are harnessed in gleam- 
ing harness, a large bell is fixed to the bent bow of wood over 
the horses* necks, all the comrades and friends of the youth- 
ful dead follow them to the graveside. When a young 
virgin dies, the Cheremiss lay away with her, her needlework 
and decorations, and in addition a charpatt, the headgear of a 
married woman, " so that the deceased, when she celebrates 
her wedding beyond the grave, will be able to array herself 
as a married woman." While the relatives fit her out, they 
say with tears in their eyes: "Here you had not time to be 
wedded, marry an honourable man over there! " ** 

In some Districts (Urzhum, etc.,) a thread is snatched 
from the garments of the deceased, or they merely take hold 
of the coffin, with the remark: " Take not the house, the 
cattle, the seed, the fortune with thee; leave thy luck with 
us! " ™ The Eastern Votiaks have a custom according to 
which one of the relatives of the dead tears a white cloth, 


which he has brought with him to the cemetery, into two 
pieces; the part remaining in the left hand, he leaves on the 
breast of the dead, the piece in the right hand is taken home 
and bound fast to one of the rafters or attached to the wall, 
in which places it is allowed to hang a year. With the act 
of tearing, they say: " In the same way as a part of this 
cloth remains here while the other part goes home with us, 
mayst thou not altogether depart from us." 

A custom of the Volga Finns, met with also among the 
Ostiaks, is that when the face and the whole body of the dead 
have been covered with cloths brought by the friends of the 
deceased, a thread, of the length of the deceased's body, is 
laid from its head to its feet, or at times, even three threads 
of different colours, " along which the dead can climb up to 
heaven." By some, this is called the "swing" of the dead. 
Sometimes a thread of the length of an adult is laid by a 
child; " so that it may in the other world grow to the length 
of the thread." sa 

The Cheremiss regard it as essential that the persons watch- 
ing by the body through the night should also follow it to 
the grave. On the way to the cemetery all who meet the 
procession must wish the dead a happy existence, warmth 
and light. While the body is being lowered into the grave, 
the coffin is lifted up three times, with the saying: "Fear 
not! n The grave is thereafter filled in again, during which 
process the relatives of the dead in turn wish it a happy ex- 
istence and a calm dwelling-place, and beg that it will not 
frighten those near to it, but will protect its former home, 
its family, and its herds. In a Karelian " weeping-song " for 
the graveside, the wish of the dead is expressed, that when 
the grave is filled in, a tiny crack, like the way of a mole, 
will be left for the soul to move through. 89 When the Volga 
Finns return from the graveside each one present sweeps a 
little more earth on to the grave from its sides, saying: 
"May the earth be light over thee! " In both ends of the 



grave a little branch is stuck into the earth, and threads for 
the dead are bound to these. For young girls kerchiefs are 
bound to a pole planted in the grave, or to the surrounding 
trees. A three-branched candle is lit on the grave.* 

The coffin in which the dead is borne to the grave is, how- 
ever, of comparatively late origin. The Eastern Votiaks and 
Chereraiss prepare the dwelling-house of the dead first at 
the grave, to which the dead is escorted in full panoply, on a 
sleigh in the winter, and on a carriage in the summer. 
During the journey the widow of the dead sits or lies along- 
side it. At the cemetery a low grave is dug, twigs of fir or 
birch-leaves being strewn at the bottom; at the sides and ends 
a couple of stout boards are then placed, between which the 
dead is intended to be laid on its back. As a roof to this 
"house," in one side-wall of which a window is introduced, 
two boards are used. 81 Formerly and in many places at the 
present time, especially dur- 
ing the winter, the Sam- 
oyeds and the most North- 
ern Ostiaks had a custom 
according to which the dead 
were not buried in the 
earth, but in a dwelling- 
place erected over the 
ground. Among the Os- 
tiaks and Voguls a tomb of 
this description built over 
the ground resembles a 
little low house. The roof, sloping on both sides, is made 
of birch-bark and narrow logs; often this house of the dead is 
furnished with a window.* 2 Among the Lapps burial-houses 
are also found, the roofs of which rise above the ground; 
the dead being bedded in them on a layer of moss, reindeer- 
hair, etc. 48 

A further relic of the times when the above-mentioned cus- 

1. Ostiak Grave-house with 
Coffin of the Deceased 


torn of burial over the ground was prevalent among the Finno- 
Ugric peoples, is the custom, met with among the Finns in Ka- 
relia, of building, even after the dead had begun to be buried 
in the earth, a little house of thin, round logs, carpentered 
together, and furnished with a roof and windows. This 
building would seem to have little actual meaning for the 
dead, since these are buried in the earth, and it must there- 
fore be connected with the old method of disposing of the 
dead. Perfectly clear examples show how the method of 
burial has gradually passed from the erection over the ground 
to burial within it; an intermediate form being the low grave 
which is not filled in again, but only covered with boards and 
birch-bark. 8 * 

The development of the dwelling-place of the dead to the 
coffin is shown also by the old burial customs of the Finns. 
In his work on the Iron Age in Karelia, Schwindt mentions 
regarding the ancient burial-places examined by him, that an 
erection resembling a house over the ground, joined together 
with wood, with jutting-out corners, was lowered into the 
grave; it was at times even fitted with a floor of boards, over 
which skins were spread. The dead were laid in this building 
clad in festive costume, covered most often with birch-bark 
and supplied with all kinds of necessary articles. The build- 
ing was covered with a roof of boards. A grave of this 
description was filled in and covered with one or two layers 
of stones. 85 Noteworthy also is the Volga Finns' custom, 
mentioned earlier, of furnishing their coffins with a win- 

Of early origin would seem to be a custom, preserved 
among the Ugrians and the Karelian Finns, of burying their 
dead bedded in a boat or punt. Even at the present time the 
coffin is called the " punt " (ruuhi) in some parts of Karelia. 
Munkacsi has assumed, that the Ugrian custom of using an 
oaken punt as a coffin, is a direct outcome of the belief which 
they held regarding the world of the dead, and especially of 



the journey there over water. It is argued against this by 
Karjalainen, that the belief in a land of the dead to be reached 
over water is not an original belief of the Ugrians. According 
to this last investigator, the custom of supplying the dead with 
a boat for their last journey, depends solely on the fact that 
the dead were regarded as needing a boat in the world beyond, 
with which to procure their means of existence. 68 In Russian 
Karelia, remains of boats have been found which had not 
been used as coffins for the dead, but lie capsized, often 
shattered into two parts, over the grave. 67 

Fig, 2. Graveyard in Russian Karelia 

According to Blomstedt 

In the same way as the Ugrians buried their dead in boats, 
Lapp sleighs were used by the Lapps as coffins. In more 
remote districts the Lapps, even to the present time, continue 
to bury their dead in this way: laying sods of earth and 
stumps of trees around them, as a protection against beasts of 
prey. It is even related that the dead, on occasion, have been 


buried in a sitting position in a sleigh to which a reindeer was 
harnessed.* 8 

A very old custom, which seems to have been general in 
earlier times and of which traces can be found among most of 
the Finno-Ugric stocks, is the use of a coffin made by hollow- 
ing out the trunk of a tree, or a trough, as the protective 
covering of the dead. Most of the dead were buried between 
two hollowed logs, of which the lower formed the coffin and 
the upper one the lid. 6 * Among the Siberians such a coffin is 
erected over the ground upon two or four pillars. 

The oldest method of burial of the Finno-Ugrians is also 
made clear by a word, meaning in Samoyed " corpse " ihalmer t 
kameloy etc.), in Mordvin "grave" (kalmo, kalma), and in 
Finnish " grave " (kalma) and also u death " and " the scent 
o£ death." In an explanation of this word Setala says: " On 
the grounds of the meaning of the word both in Finnish and 
in Samoyed, we can assume that its original meaning was 
* corpse,' ' the dead one.' The oldest method of burial un- 
doubtedly consisted merely in the laying-out of a body, a 
habit prevalent, and followed even now, among many peoples, 
which habit would explain why the same word can have the 
two meanings ' corpse ' and ' grave.' " T0 

Reliable reports on the burning of bodies are to be found 
solely among the Baltic Finns. In certain ancient remains in 
Finland, burnt bones have been found in graves. Henry the 
Lett relates in his Chronicle how the Esthonians, when they 
returned to their old beliefs during the unsettled period of 
the Crusades, " took back their wives, whom they had forsaken 
during the time they stood under the influence of Christianity, 
exhumed their dead, whom they had buried in cemeteries, and 
burned them in their old heathen way." The other Finno- 
Ugric peoples seem to have burned bodies only when the 
dead were supposed to be dangerous to those surviving. We 
may concur fully with Varonen, who says: " As, therefore, 
no reliable proofs exist concerning the cremation of the dead 


among the Finno-Ugric stocks, except in those branches, which 
continuously, and for the longest period, have been under 
Germanic influence, we may conclude that the burning of 
the dead did not originally form part of the burial-customs 
of the Finno-Ugrians, and, where it may occasionally be found 
among them, is merely in the nature of a temporary loan from 
other peoples."" 

The Finno-Ugric peoples bury their dead in certain burial- 
areas, which, among the agricultural tribes, are often fenced 
in. Every village has its own cemetery, or several villages 
lying closely together may have a common one. This comes 
from the fact that from the original mother-village, newer 
ones have been formed in the course of time, the inhabitants 
of which continue to use the burial-area of the original village. 
In the same way as the old villages were family-villages, the 
old cemeteries were family-cemeteries. That it was not the 
custom to bury strangers in them is shown, among other proofs, 
by the custom of the Votiaks, who besides their village- 
cemetery, sometimes have a special one, often situated by the 
main road, for the burial of wandering strangers, stricken by 
death during their sojourn in the village. 1 " 

Usually, the cemetery is a consecrated thicket or wood, 
where possible, of firs (Finnish, kuusikko), where the Votiaks 
and the Cheremiss hang up on the trees all kinds of garments, 
doths, kerchiefs, etc., presented to the dead, " so that they 
should not, lying on the ground, be turned to earth." At 
times, even the solitary graves are ringed round. According 
to Rytschkov this was done "so that the dead should not 
leave their dwelling-place and trample down the surrounding 
fields." " The Eastern Cheremiss have, further, a custom of 
placing on their graves a cuckoo made of wood, and fastened 
to the end of a long pole." What the meaning attached to 
this bird may originally have been, the present generation no 
longer knows. Some say the cuckoo sounds its note for the 
edification of the dead. Certain, Siberian tribes have also a 


custom of setting up figures of birds on the graves of their 

Whether the use of special cemeteries had its origin already 
in Finno-Ugric times is doubtful. According to tradition, the 
Lapps, in their earlier periods, did not possess special burial- 
places, because their dead were buried at any spot. In the 
summer, when it is extremely difficult, and even, at times, 
impossible, to transport the corpses to the remote burial- 
places, the Lapps have to our day buried their dead in the 
forests and on the uplands, wherever they happened to be 
dwelling, and then with the arrival of winter removed them 
to the churchyard. 75 



THE duties of the living with regard to the dead do not- 
cease when the latter have been carried to the grave 
with all honours. The dead continue to need the help and care 
of the living. If a dead man is not given his rights, he may 
resent it and, coming back, disturb the peace of his survivors. 
Such of the dead as haunt their old homes are called by the 
Esthonians " home-visitors " (Kodukaiat). Generally, they 
are masters and mistresses who in their life-time were par- 
ticularly order-loving, economical and strict. They are, of 
course, seldom seen, but every now and then they are heard 
making noises to remind their family of their duties, or they 
may even attack their children if these have not arranged the 
memorial-feast due to them. 1 

Memorial feasts may be either general ones, celebrated in 
memory of all deceased relations, or special, in which case a 
certain deceased relative is the object of remembrance. Of 
these, the latter seem to be of older origin. 

The first memorial feast celebrated in remembrance of a 
member of the family, takes place on the actual burial-day, 
so that this first feast is at the same time a burial feast. 

Lundius, the missionary, relates of the Swedish Lapps, that 
when their dead were buried, they drank " funeral beer." 
When the liquor was handed round, the Lapps first dipped 
their fingers into it and smeared their faces. Having become 
intoxicated, they began to praise the dead man, saying that he 
was shrewd and strong, that he was an able forester, that he 


understood well his wife and children, that he was a mighty 
shaman, etc.' This wetting of the fingers and smearing of 
the face can be traced to a corresponding custom among the 
Norwegian Lapps of whom Randulf, the missionary, relates, 
that before going to the Lord's Supper, they used to take a 
glass of beer or gin, if they had any, and dipping three fingers 
into the drink, make the sign of the cross on their foreheads. 
At other times they made, with fingers dipped into the drink, 
three dots on the breast, one with each finger. This was done 
by the Lapps in order to get their dead relations to protect 
them.' The memorial drink, as well as the three finger- 
marks, is with the Lapps a later Scandinavian custom. 

The custom, however, of killing the reindeer that dragged 
the dead man to his grave, seems to be an original Lapponian 
usage, This sacrifice performance is described by Rheen, the 
missionary, in the following way : — " Three days after the 
funeral of the dead man, the Lapps take the reindeer which 
conveyed him to the cemetery, kill it in his honour, and con- 
sume it in company with their relations and dependants. 
They collect all the bones, and having made a chest, put them 
into it, burying the chest in the earth. They then make an 
image of wood which is placed on the chest, the image being 
large or small, according to the size of the dead man." * Ac- 
cording to Graan, three rods besmeared with blood, on which 
were placed pieces of the heart and lungs of the reindeer, were 
also buried with the bones." 

Even after the funeral feast, the deceased was remembered 
by taking some tobacco, or anything else he may have been 
fond of, to his grave. Rheen mentions that if the deceased 
was a rich man, reindeer were killed in his honour one, two or 
even three years after his death. Here also the slaughtered 
animal's bones had to be hidden in the earth. A black piece 
of thread had to be sewn into the ear of the reindeer chosen 
for the sacrifice." 

If sacrifices were not made to the dead man, the Lapps 


believed that they would be punished with poverty. Accord- 
ing to Lundius, the Lapps believe that their reindeer, be they 
many or few in number, " will die after their master, as they 
stand or walk, like grass." T 

If, after the death of the deceased, he was given some 
charge, e.g., as reindeer-herd, they were obliged to sacrifice 
to him yearly during that time. J. Kildal relates how the 
Lapp was able, by means of sacrifice, to make his father or 
some other near relation from the lower regions guard his 
reindeer for one, two or three years. After that time he 
would go back to the dead.' 

The deceased are also remembered at ordinary feasts. 
Randulf says that when a Lapp drinks the health of anyone 
he always pours one part of the liquor, before drinking, on 
the ground, in honour of the spirits, but in particular of the 
deceased.' Lundius relates that at their feasts, they sacrifice 
cheese, meat, fish, fat, marrow and other food, which they 
put into a little trough and bury in the earth together with 

* 111 

an image. 

Like the Lapps, the Samoyeds have no fixed memorial days 
or annual feasts in honour of the dead. The reindeer which 
dragged the deceased to his grave, is here also sacrificed. 
Most frequently it is impaled on the grave, a meal being 
sometimes prepared from the meat. 11 Miiller says that the 
Samoyeds tie up a reindeer or two, if the deceased has had 
any, on the grave, where the poor beasts are left to starve to 
death. In some districts they believe that the dead need the 
care of their relatives until the shaman has taken their 
" shadows " to the world of the dead. When, for some acci- 
dental reason, e.g., during illness, they sacrifice a reindeer or 
a dog to the deceased, the sacrifice is performed after sunset, 
behind the tent. The head of the sacrificial beast must then 
be directed to the west. 11 

According to Pallas, the Ugrians of the North take to the 
graveyard three of the best reindeer of the deceased on the 


sleighs which follow that on which the corpse lies. Having 
placed the body in the grave, they tie a strap to each of a 
reindeer's hindlegs, two men seize the straps and four others 
pierce the animal with sharpened poles from different direc- 
tions. In this way one reindeer at a time is killed. When a 
rich man is buried, several reindeer are killed} a noose is 
placed round their necks and legs, and thus tied, they are 
beaten along their backs with poles until they cease to breathe. 
An animal killed in honour of the deceased is left on the 
grave; the straps are placed on a stand fixed above the grave 
and the sleighs are overturned against it. Near the grave the 
funeral meal is cooked, and when they have eaten enough, 
the burial guests take the rest home. 13 According to later 
custom, the best-beloved reindeer of the deceased is killed, the 
meat being eaten, and the bones and horns, together with the 
sleigh and harness, are placed on the grave. 14 

The funeral feast of the North Voguls is described by Gon- 
datti. Immediately after burying the dead, they cook some 
kind of cereal or meat-dish, which they then pour out against 
the coffin. The bottom of the pan is knocked out, after which 
it is left by the grave. If the deceased has been conveyed by 
reindeer, the latter are strangled by the grave, the meat being 
boiled and eaten on the spot, the hide buried, and the bones 
placed by the dead man. 15 

Like the Lapps, the Ugrians frequently remember their 
dead, especially during the first period of their life in Hades. 
In most districts, however, they have no fixed memorial days, 
but settle these according to agreement with relations. Kar- 
jalainen says that the Northern Ugrians celebrate memorial 
feasts in honour of a dead man for fifty days, and of a dead 
woman, for forty. The ceremonies are very simple: — they 
cook some food, and, having kept it at the grave for a while, 
they eat it at home. At Tremyugan the dead are remembered 
after one or two months, a half-year, or a whole one, by 
" setting forth a dish or a trough made of birch-bark." Fish 


and meat are cooked and, together with other eatables, placed 
in vessels either on the ground by the house against the door 
on the side of the hinges, or taken to the cemetery, where 
they are put on the ground above the head of the deceased or 
below the window of the grave-house, if there is one. On 
the ground tea, gravy, gin, and, finally, some cold water are 
poured, whence the term " water-pouring " is derived." 
According to Munkacsi, the Northern Voguls celebrate 
memorial feasts on the third day after death, then, at the end 
of " the holy week," and, after that time, thrice a year. They 
make a fire by the grave and cook a dish, a small part of which 
is placed in a vessel by the grave with the saying: " Do not 
remember us, thinking evil thoughts." 17 Where outside in- 
fluence can be traced, the memorial feasts are celebrated on 
carefully fixed days. With the Southern Ugrians, such days 
are the ninth, the sixteenth, and thirty-sixth, and a half-year 
or a whole year after death. 18 

A strange custom among the Northern Ugrians is the 
making of a memorial doll of the deceased, of which Novit- 
skiy says: " A curious irrational and shameless custom is that 
which is observed by their women after the death of their 
husbands. The widow carves a wooden doll, resembling a 
human being, to represent her dead husband, takes some of 
her husband's clothes, dresses the doll in them and provides 
it with ornaments worn by the deceased, and putting it in the 
place where her husband used to sit, cooks for this lifeless 
block of wood all the dishes that used to please the deceased. 
When they sit down in the place of honour to eat, she places 
the image beside her, embracing and kissing the doll as if it 
were a living being, fully believing that the deceased sees all 
this and that his soul enters this image at times. She keeps 
the doll for some time, going on with this nonsense for a 
year or even longer, and then buries it with its clothes on in 
the earth, exhibiting her sorrow by weeping and wailing." 10 

Castren and Pallas relate that memorial dolls of this descrip- 


tion were made to represent persons who had been in some 
way important. The image was kept in the tent of the de- 
ceased and was shown the same honours as its precursor. It 
was fed at every meal, dressed in the morning and undressed 
in the evening, and a widow, who had loved her husband, 
even went so far as to place it beside her in bed. According 
to Castren the image was worshipped in this way for three 
years, after which it was buried. They supposed that the 
body of the deceased had disintegrated during these three 
years. 20 In some places the image was kept for five years, if 
the deceased was a 'man, and for four, if a woman. In our 
days the image is burned after the course of the said time. 
Yet the old idea also remains that the doll should be buried in 
the grave of the deceased. Where they are in the habit of 
building the so-called grave-houses, the doll is placed in these. 
During the time when Finsch was travelling among the 
Ugrians, he saw, among the most Northern, small buildings 
on their graves oi the size of kennels, provided with a door, 
and within them a doll, dressed in Ugrian garments. These 
dolls noticed by Finsch were plainly such as had been taken 
to the graveyard at the end of the memorial-time and placed 
in the grave-house. 21 

The memorial doll is also to be found among some Sa- 
moyed tribes, though the custom of making images of shamans 
seems here to be more widely spread. According to Lehtisalo, 
the Yuraks make a wooden image of the "shadow" of the 
shaman, which resembles a reindeer-bull. This image is kept 
by the wife or son of the deceased in a case, consisting of the 
whole-flayed skin of a young calf. 22 The fact that the 
" shadow " of the shaman is thus represented, springs from 
the idea of the Samoyeds that the soul of the shaman, when 
leaving his body, takes on the shape of a reindeer-bull. " 

Karjalainen suggests that the custom of the Northern 
Ugrians of making an image of the deceased has developed 
from a usage retained among the Southern Ostiaks and Voguls. 


Among the latter, the linen and bed-clothes of the deceased 
are kept unwashed in his bed, among the former generally 
under his pillow. These clothes are brought out at the me- 
morial feast and placed in the middle of the bed. A spoon is 
then placed in the dishes with its handle directed towards the 
clothes. In some places a widow even keeps her late hus- 
band's clothes beside her when going to bed. Karjalainen 
thinks that this method of representing the deceased has de- 
veloped into the Northern Ugrians' custom of making a par- 
ticular image of the dead. 24 Yet it must be remembered that 
the Lapps, who were not in the habit of worshipping the 
clothes of the deceased, also used an image every time they 
sacrificed to them. This image, which does not seem to have 
been an object for worship at home, but was made only for 
the occasion of the sacrifice, was not clothed. 25 Among most 
of the Finno-Ugrian races the clothes of the dead man are 
nowadays considered as visible representations of himself. 
This is true of all the Volga peoples. Images are not seen 
among them nowadays, but according to the most ancient 
sources, the Mordvins seem to have had memorial dolls, which 
were worshipped at the memorial feasts. A very common 
usage is, further, to choose as the representative of the de- 
ceased a living man who resembles him in appearance and 
who dresses himself for the feast in the deceased's clothes. 
The fact that even the name of the deceased was later made 
into a visible object of remembrance to the survivors, has been 
mentioned already when speaking of the karsikko of the 
Finns. The name karsikko was also given in North Savolax 
to a piece of white paper on which were written the name of 
the deceased and the year of his birth and death, this paper 
being placed for the funeral day on a cloth spread on the back 
wall of the hut. 28 

Like the Chuvashes, the Volga Finns celebrate memorial 
feasts in honour of some particular person on the funeral 
day, and also on the third, the seventh and the fortieth day 


after death. In some districts, the anniversary is also cele- 
brated. These memorial feasts are often celebrated late at 
night, and the time for them is calculated by the Volga Finns 
not according to days but according to the number of nights. 
For this reason they call the memorial feast of the third day, 
" the third night," that of the seventh, " the seventh night," 
and that of the fortieth, " the fortieth night." According to an 
old custom, some animal, a hen at the very least, must be 
killed during each memorial feast, for without bloodshed, as 
the Votiaks say, a memorial feast cannot be celebrated." 

The Votiaks begin their preparations for the first memorial 
feast before the deceased is taken to the burial-ground. As 
soon as the dead man is washed and dressed, he is placed on a 
bench; the eldest female member of the family puts down 
two bowls by the body and makes meat pies. The eldest male 
member of the family then takes a pie and breaks three pieces 
from it, placing these into one of the bowls; into the other he 
pours some gin, saying: "In this life you lived well, live 
well also there. Do not torment and worry us. Protect our 
cattle well. Protect our children well. Gather the dead 
round you. Protect our good cattle from floods and preci- 
pices. More I cannot say to you ; do not be angry. Live well 
in the life over there; do not take hold of us in front or from 
behind; do not persecute us." The eldest member of the 
family having finished, the others do and say the same. 28 

These ceremonies differ somewhat in different places. In 
the district of Sarapul, where they believe that the relatives of 
the deceased who died earlier have arrived to meet the new- 
comer, they are believed to take part in the feast together 
with the deceased. In honour of the latest deceased and of 
the others, the men make wax-tapers and the women cook a 
hen, if the deceased is a woman, and a cock, if it be a man. 
At the door near the fireplace, a trough is placed on which, 
as on the head of the bed, little wax-tapers are fixed. Into 
the trough pieces of meat are thrown and some gravy poured 


when the names of the dead are mentioned, with an appeal to 
them to eat and drink and to receive the lately deceased with 
a contented mind into their company. 29 Such customs are 
common to all the Volga Finns. 

When the Esthonians are ready to take their dead to the 
grave, they cook beans or peas (which fare among the Baltic 
Finns seems to be a general memorial dish), and pour ladle- 
fuls of these on to the coffin, on which they also place some 
other food, white bread, etc. In some places they are in the 
habit of pouring out beer or gin on the ground by the gate 
while the deceased is being taken away, lest he should suffer 
from thirst in the life to come.* 

Most frequently the Volga Finns, however, prepare the 
funeral meal only when they have returned from the grave- 
yard. Generally no one is invited to such a feast, but it is 
everyone's duty to know for himself that he must come and 
honour the deceased. For the feast, everyone brings food 
with him, no one coming empty-handed, and the attention of 
the dead is generally called to what each has brought. For 
the newly-buried a dish is placed on the table at the spot where 
he is supposed to sit among his own people, but for those who 
died earlier, a trough is placed by the door. For all the dead, 
for the nearest relations and also for more distant ones, whose 
memory still lives in the minds of the survivors, a wax taper 
is lighted. Even the ruler of the kingdom of the dead and 
that of the graveyard are remembered. The first cup and the 
first morsels of food belong to the dead. If anything happens 
to fall on the floor under the table, no one is allowed to take 
it up. The food sacrificed to the deceased is afterwards taken 
into the yard for the dogs. If the latter scorn the food, it is 
believed that the dead are not satisfied with the feast; should 
the dogs fight while eating it is considered to be a sign that 
the dead do not agree among themselves. 

For the earlier deceased relations, who have arrived to meet 
the newly deceased, there has thus been placed a dish of food 


near the door. This custom is very common, as it is believed 
that the place by the door is the place of residence of the 
dead who arrive at the memorial feast. 

Even to the graveyard all kinds of food are taken, and 
there crumbled over the grave of the deceased. In some 
places, they dig a pit above the head of the dead man, into 
which they pour gin, a honey-drink or water. When doing 
this, the Siryans say: " Drink, drink." 91 

Nowadays, the Volga Finns seldom kill larger domestic 
animals than poultry for the memorial feasts. Formerly, cir- 
cumstances seem to have been different. Olearius relates that 
during the first half of the sixteenth century, the Cheremiss, 
when burying a rich man, killed his best horse, the surviving 
friends eating the meat of the animal. 32 A hundred years 
later M tiller reports likewise: " When some important person 
dies, the Chuvash and Cheremiss put up two sticks in the yard, 
between which they stretch a thick thread. On this thread 
they place a ring. The young people then shoot at it with 
bows and arrows at a distance of ten paces, and he who first 
makes the ring fall, mounts the horse that the deceased used 
to drive, but in case of the deceased being a woman, any 
horse he may choose, galloping three times to the grave of the 
deceased and back. The horse is then killed — the Cheremiss 
carrying out this in the yard and the Chuvash in the graveyard 
— the meat being boiled and eaten in memory of the 
deceased." 33 

Numerous examples show that the Baltic Finns were also 
in former times in the habit of killing a large domestic animal 
in honour of the dead. Even in our days they believe, in 
some places, that if a cow is not killed for the funeral of the 
host or hostess, it will die in any case. A remainder of the 
said funeral sacrifice is found in a custom among the Finns, 
as well as among the Esthonians, of making the clergyman a 
present of a cow after the death of the host or hostess, as a 
fee for the burial ceremony. The Esthonians were in the 


habit of taking an ox to the clergyman after the death of the 
host, and a cow after that of the hostess. Sometimes the 
clergyman was expected to prepare a meal of these for the fu- 
neral guests. In North Karelia the people were in the habit 
of tying the cow due to the clergyman to a tree in the grave- 
yard for some time, the clergyman having to take it from 
there. 34 

The different memorial days are celebrated by the Volga 
Finns in varying ways, some of them being more solemn than 
others. Thus, Georgi relates of the Votiaks, that at the first 
memorial feast, which is celebrated on the third day, the 
friends of the house of mourning are assembled only to eat 
pancakes and drink beer, some of which is also poured out in 
the yard for the dead, but on the seventh day a sheep is killed, 
and on the fortieth, a cow or a horse. 88 

The memorial feast of the third day among the Siryans 
(District of Orlov) is described by Dobrotvorskiy. When the 
guests have arrived, wax-tapers are lighted in the window 
and on either side of the threshold. The door is opened for 
a while, when the guests are sitting down at table, to invite 
the soul (hi) of the deceased to the feast. In the farther- 
most corner, a hat or a kerchief is placed, depending on the sex 
of the deceased. On the place where the hat has been set 
down, no one seats himself. On the table beside it, they 
place a bowl filled with pancakes, porridge, milk and gin. 
Every guest considers it his duty to put into the bowl of the 
deceased some of the food displayed on the table. 38 

The memorial feast of the seventh day is, in most places, 
like that of the third day. Some one of the relatives of the 
deceased goes to the grave to remember him. At home, they 
light a candle on the brim of the vessel of food offered to the 
deceased. When the first pieces of food are dropped into this 
vessel, everyone utters a few words of remembrance, pointing 
out that it is now the seventh day of the memorial feast. In 
other places the seventh day is kept almost as solemnly as 


the fortieth. The participants in the ceremony go to the grave 
with two horses to invite the deceased; they kill a hen for 
him, sometimes even a sheep; in the evening they go to the 
bath-house with him; all night he is regaled; and not until 
dawn is he taken back to his new home. 87 

According to a general idea of the Volga Finns and of many 
other East European peoples, the deceased remains during the 
course of forty days in a very near relationship to his old home. 
The Votiaks say that the " soul " of the dead lives at home 
for forty days after death. It is therefore the duty of his 
people to show kindness and hospitality to the deceased, par- 
ticularly during that time. In some places, it is customary, 
during these forty days, to put down a bowl for the deceased 
every time the family and servants sit down to take a meal. 3 * 

The Siryans believe that after the funeral, the deceased 
returns with the funeral guests to his old home and remains 
there for the above-named time. For that time, therefore, 
it has been customary to hang up a towel in some fixed place 
in the hut, so that the deceased may wipe his face every time 
he washes himself. No living soul may touch it, as death 
might be the immediate consequence.** 

The Mordvins say that the deceased passes over to the 
realm of the dead forty days or six weeks after his death. 40 
The same idea is found also among the Baltic Finns who have 
been under Russian influence. According to Groundstroem 
the Votes dared not speak ill of the dead for six weeks, for 
they believed that the soul of the deceased stayed for that time 
in his home, mostly under the table. They were careful also 
not to stretch their legs under the table, as they might easily 
trample on the deceased. 41 Like the Siryans, the Karelians in 
the Government of Tver were in the habit of hanging a towel 
for six weeks on the back wall of the hut, so that the deceased 
when coming home, might wipe himself. 42 A similar custom 
is found among the Russians, from whom the Finnish tribes 
seem to have borrowed it. 


As the forty-days' memorial feast is at the same time a fare- 
well feast, it has attained a particular significance and is cele- 
brated more solemnly than the others. Among all the Volga 
Finns, the ceremonies observed on this occasion were very 
much alike. The following description was taken down by 
the author among the Cheremiss in the District of Urzhum, 
where, on the fortieth day, they kill a sheep, or at times even a 
bigger animal, all the relations, neighbours and friends of the 
deceased gathering together. The deceased himself is fetched, 
with particular ceremonies, from the graveyard, members of 
his own family being chosen to do this. When the sun is 
highest in the heavens, the latter put the best horses before a 
waggon, take meat and drink with them and drive with great 
speed and tinkling of bells to the burial-ground. The cere- 
monies had to be as solemn as at a wedding, and all the dead 
were to know that they were now coming with two horses to 
fetch " so-and-so " to the " great feast," The horses stop 
by the grave, where honey, meat, gin and beer, and also bread, 
cheese and pancakes are placed on a white cloth. Uncovering 
their heads, those who have come to fetch the deceased now 
remind him, kneeling, of the great day that has arrived: " Get 
up (the name of the deceased is mentioned), see what we 
have brought thee — honey, mead, gin, beer, bread, butter and 
pancakes, get up and eat ! The ' fortieth night ' is nearing, 
come with us to the village. At home they have killed a 
sheep for thee, thy widow and children await thee, thy rela- 
tions want to meet thee. We have not come to thee for 
nothing, we have come to take thee to the great feast." They 
then pour out drink on the grave, placing also some food on 
it and repeating the words usual at memorial-feasts: "May 
this be thy portion! " The deceased is called on to bring with 
him the relations who died earlier, all the dead fathers and 
mothers of the family 5 even the ruler of the lower world is 
invited to the feast. When about to start, they place a soft 
cushion in the waggon for the deceased to sit on. Having 


regaled the dead man in every way and tasted of the food 
themselves, they ask him to get into the waggon. The de- 
ceased may seem shy, or puzzled, so they assure him: " Thou 
knowest us, and thy waggon thou knowest, thine own are the 
horses too." Having shaken up the cushions, the one who 
gets into the waggon says: a Sit down beside me, we will drive 
together, we are going home." Though the seat is empty, 
the Cheremiss believes that the shade of the deceased is there. 
He often turns to it during the drive and speaks to it. If 
several persons have arrived to invite the deceased, the horse 
by which he is taken is at the head of the procession. In some 
places tliey drive three times round the grave before returning 
to the village. 

At the homestead, the widow comes to meet the deceased, 
and kneels with her children by the steps. Before them stands 
a solemn functionary with bared head, holding bread, cheese 
and drink in his hands. He speaks kindly to the dead man, 
calls him by name and asks him politely to step into the hut. 
The widow and children look at the arriving guests with tears 
in their eyes. When the deceased is supposed to have stepped 
out of the waggon, the cushion is taken into the hut to a fixed 
place where the deceased is asked to sit down. None of 
the living people seat themselves on that place, and near it 
all his clothes, even his bast-shoes, are hung on the beams. 
Pointing to them, the widow says: " Look, here are thy clothes, 
no one has used them, nothing of them have we lost." They 
place meat and drink before the deceased, and when they 
suppose him to have eaten enough, the men take him to see 
the cattle, the corn-stacks and the farm implements, and it 
is even customary to take him to the bath-house to have a 
bath. Some of the relations living a long way off have already 
arrived, but the feast proper does not begin until the sun goes 

Then all the relations and friends of the dead man arrive 
at the yard. A common usage is for every family to bring 


with them meat and drink of every kind. The member of 
the family who receives the guests, says to the deceased: " See, 
thy -friend (the name is mentioned) has brought thee this." 
Besides bringing meat and drink every guest takes also a 
small wax-taper with him. The festival mood is heightened 
above all by the numerous wax-tapers which are placed near 
the back wall on a stand made for the purpose. In the middle 
burns a thick wax-taper, one metre in length, twisted out of 
three ordinary tapers. To the right of it stands a row of 
smaller ones, one for each of the dead man's relations who 
have departed earlier, and to the left each guest places his 
taper in honour of the deceased. When they are burnt out 
fresh ones are lighted. The " great taper " that burns until 
dawn has also been lighted for the actual guest of the day. 
It is this last who is the object of everyone's attention. 
All eyes are directed towards the cushion on the bench in 
the interior of the room below the tapers, where they believe 
that the dead man is sitting. The women vie in carrying meat 
and drink there; everything cooked is intended for the de- 
ceased. Yet the living also get their share. The memorial 
feast in honour of the dead man is no real festivity unless 
everyone eats and drinks on this occasion. The Cheremiss be- 
lieves, just as the Votiak does, that the more sated the guests 
are, the more so is the deceased. For this last separate vessels 
are set forth; a separate trough for meat, bread, pancakes, 
pies and eggs, and a large round stoop made of birch-bark for 
gin and mead. Every one going up to taste of the meat and 
drink kneels by the seat of the deceased and throws or pours 
a little into his vessel, inviting him to eat. A small piece of 
each part of the slaughtered sheep is also placed in his trough. 
Old men remain long kneeling before the deceased imploring 
him to protect the family, and also the cattle from falling 
down precipices or being torn to pieces by wild animals; asking 
him, further, to make the corn grow, to ward off insects from 
the fields, mice from the store-house, etc. 



At midnight the living, at least, begin to feel that they have 
had enough. They are all in good humour, the gin-goblets 
have been emptied every now and then, and also the " stoop " 
of the deceased has gradually filled. The bag pipe which 
until now has lain mute, tucked into the shirt-front of its 
owner, is now brought out, and one and another invite the 
" shade " of the deceased to come and dance. No one keeps 
in his seat, all swing and whirl around. The tired hands can 
hardly longer make fresh tapers and put them up. Even 
the widow and children have for a while forgotten their grief. 
Many old men move now only mechanically, ' and ^some of 
them have already gone to sleep in the corners. 

But there are people among them who have strength enough 
to watch. The dancing and the murmur of the people cease 
for a moment. Curiosity increases, when some one near the 
door exclaims: " The dead man is coming," upon which a 
person, looking very dignified, steps into the hut and takes the 
seat of the deceased. The widow hastens to embrace him, 
calling him her husband, the old men press his hand, calling 
him by the name of the deceased. The Cheremiss choose 
some one resembling the dead man in size and appearance, 
and for the night this substitute is dressed in the dead man's 
clothes. He is called " the representative of the deceased," 
and every politeness and kindness is consequently shown him. 
Every one wishes to regale him in the best possible way with 
meat and drink, especially drink. The " dead man " relates 
his observations on life beyond the grave and advises his re- 
lations to remember him, to live in harmony and avoid quarrel- 
ling, to work and to be economical. The survivors, for their 
part, ask for the protection of the dead man. 

The tapers gradually begin one after the other to go out, 
only the biggest of them is still burning, when one of the 
old men, coming in, wakes up the sleeping people, saying: 
" The day is dawning, the dead man wants his rest." The 
languid people then bestir themselves, as before sunrise the 


dead man must be conveyed with all honours to the peace of 
the grave. But first a prayer is said, all kneeling and turning 
their faces in the direction of the seat of the deceased. He 
is told that it is now time for him to depart for his home 
among the other dead. They wish him a pleasant time, advise 
him to make friends with the " old Cheremiss," by which 
name they mean those who have departed before. The latter, 
who are considered to be present, are also addressed with good 
wishes: " May you have bread and salt over there in abun- 
dance, do not go away from us hungry and thirsty, be rich 
and happy, walk in light, help us too, to live, do not frighten 
us, do not forget our cattle and do not disperse our family." 
Then one of them takes the taper-stand, another the food- 
trough, a third the drinking- vessel, and the others, with the 
widow at their head, carry the dead man's clothes, and thus 
they go out into the yard, the " representative " being the 
foremost. From the yard they step out into the village 
street, wending their way to the burial-place. The women 
weep aloud. They do not, however, walk all the way there, 
but the procession stops at a hill situated outside the village, 
where the rest of the burning tapers and the food and drinks 
are thrown down. Even here, they remember the deceased, 
wishing him a happy existence and exhorting him to live in 
comfort in the society of those already there, and asking him 
not to come home, at least not as an uninvited guest. Besides 
giving him meat and drink, he is presented, on his departure, 
with a wooden spoon and cup, which are shattered on the spot, 
for otherwise — so say the Cheremiss — the dead man does 
not get them. 

It is usual among the Hill Cheremiss to kill a horse for the 
memorial feast of the fortieth day, if the deceased is a man, 
and a cow, if a woman. During the feast all the meat must 
be consumed, as it is not right to reserve festival food for the 
next day. The vessels and tapers of the deceased are here 
placed by the threshold. When sacrificing to the deceased, 



his own people say : " In thy memory have we prepared meat 
and drink; we, thy relations and neighbours, have all as- 
sembled. Do not take it amiss if we have not entertained thee 
enough, forgive us if we have hurt thee in thy lifetime, do 
not be angry with us, and do not punish us by sending us 
diseases and other misfortunes. Together with our friends 
and comrades, we wish you, all ye dead ones, to be satisfied 
with our feast; now go back to your dwelling, sated, singing 
and dancing." The deceased is then conveyed with music 
and singing to a fixed place, where they put up in his honour 
a little table with one foot. On this table, which is called 
" the table of the deceased," they place a vessel for food and 
three spoons. In some parts it is customary to lay a long pole 
across chasms or rivulets, should any such be in the neighbour- 
hood, so that the dead man may be able to cross them. The 
pole is called the " bridge of the deceased." This seems to be 
a symbol of the "bridge of the realm of the dead," across 
which, according to an idea descending from Iran, the de- 
ceased had to wander to the other life.* 3 

Among the Eastern Cheremiss in the District of Birsk it is 
also customary, in some places, to go to bed on the fortieth 
night. After the music, the dancing, and the entertainment 
are over, the widow takes to her the cushion on which the 
deceased is supposed to have been sitting during the feast and 
says: " Still for the last night will we sleep together." Early 
next morning the dead man is ceremoniously conveyed with 
two horses back to the burial-ground. 44 

In the province of Perm the Cheremiss are in the habit 
of making one of the dead man's relatives ride on horseback 
to the burial-ground to invite the deceased. Having fulfilled 
his task, the rider returns to the village at full gallop, crying: 
" He is coming, he is coming." At the same moment, the 
waiting crowd rush at the panting horse with knives in their 
hands, slaughtering it at once. The meat of the horse is then 






boiled and eaten, but the hide is hung over the grave of the 
dead man." 

Similar ideas and customs are observed also among the 
Mordvins. The dead man is fetched from the graveyard by 
the horse promised him for sacrifice. The one who has dressed 
himself in the clothes of the deceased relates his experiences 
and describes the work of the dead, saying, among other things, 
that such and such a person has fine horses, another walks in 
the forest, this one has lost his property, that one has married, 
such a one keeps bees, etc. Among other curious customs 
occurring at funeral festivities, it may be mentioned here 
that the Mordvins even make the " dead man " fell trees, if 
he wishes it. They place the man who has dressed himself 
in the clothes of the deceased on a chair provided with a 
cushion, put a big knife into his hand and then carry him 
sitting on the chair out of the hut to the drying-kiln, where, 
beforehand, they have stuck a twig into the ground. The 
dead man begins to chop it down with all his might. The 
" tree " having been felled, the deceased is carried back to 
the hut, taking the " tree " with him. At dawn the repre- 
sentative of the dead man is taken to the graveyard, where 
he is carried from the waggon on the cushion on which he has 
been sitting, and seated on the grave of the deceased with his 
back to the east. At his feet the others lay pancakes, mutton, 
etc., asking the dead man to eat together with them for the 
last time. Then, having eaten, they say good-bye to the de- 
ceased, asking him to come again at harvest-time, when also 
his portion is to be reaped. The deputy bows and hastily 
steps from the grave.** 

01 the Siryans it is related that at the memorial feast of a 
deceased female a woman appears as the principal guest of 
the feast, and, at that of a male, a man, who, at the close 
of the feast is the first to go out of the" hut, attended by the 
others with candles in their hands, for, according to their 


ideas, the deceased withdraws from the hut in the person of 
his deputy. In some places the latter is accompanied as far 
as the first cross-road. 47 

In Ingria the people used to go with food to the grave at 
the " six weeks " festival, in order to invite the deceased to 
the feast. Having returned home, they put the food on the 
table with a spoon in it, which no one was allowed to touch. 
Moreover, the eldest member of the family scattered some 
salt, peas and slices of egg on the table for the benefit of the 
dead. During the repast, a woman in the entrance sang a 
" weeping-song," in which the deceased were implored to join 
the circle of relations. After the repast these went, in the 
order in which they left the table, out of the door into the 
village street, turning their faces in the direction of the grave- 
yard. At the same time each one stuck a fire-stick or a twig 
into the ground, as a walking-stick for the dead man. 48 

In Russian Karelia it was customary, when the relations 
were going to the graveyard to invite the deceased to the feast, 
to take with them, besides the other horses, one that was with- 
out a driver and harnessed to an empty sleigh over which 
was spread a white cloth, for the purpose of conveying the 
deceased to his former home. 49 

In some districts, among the Siryans and the Volga races, 
there seems to have been the custom to celebrate also the 
anniversary with a farewell feast. 

According to the Eastern Votiaks the deceased then first 
leaves his own people, among whom his " soul " (urt) has 
up to that time lived and thriven. To accompany the deceased 
all the relations arrive j a sheep or a cow is killed for the feast, 
and some of the food is taken to the grave. The white piece 
of cloth which on the funeral day had been fixed to a rafter, 
is also taken there and solemnly buried in the grave. After 
that day the clothes of the dead man, which up to then had 
been carefully kept and only produced on the occasion of 
great memorial feasts, 'could be given away to the poor. 50 



According to one report the Votiaks believe that if they do 
not celebrate a memorial feast then, the dead will not give the 
new-comer a place in their community, but will make him 
continue to wander about the village, as the deceased had done 
in the course of the year." 

The anniversary is celebrated by the Eastern Cheremiss, 
in the District of Birsk, in such a manner that all the clothes 
of the deceased are hung upon his favourite horse, which is 
then taken to the grave and led three times round it. They 
light a three-branched candle on the grave, saying at the same 
time to the dead man that the anniversary has arrived and 
promising to kill the horse in his honour. Having arrived at 
the homestead, the horse is killed at once and a memorial 
meal prepared of its flesh. While sacrificing, the relations 
say to the deceased: " Eat what we have prepared for thee; 
we have not harnessed thy horse, we have not used it, now 
take it with thee." At the end of the feast, the bones of the 
horse are taken to the graveyard, where they are hung in a 
tree, but the hide is sold for the benefit of the poor and the 

In honour of particular persons the Votiaks further cele- 
brate a remarkable memorial feast, which, however, does not 
take place at a specially fixed time, but sometimes a year or 
several years after death. 

This festivity, which is generally celebrated late in autumn, 
is called by the Votiaks a " horse-wedding " or " the wedding 
of the dead," these names being derived from the fact that 
it is, above all, a cheerful feast with wedding-songs and wed- 
ding-presents. The sacrificial animal, which is generally 
killed in the yard, must be a horse, if the deceased in question 
is a man, but a cow, if a woman. In some places where the 
memorial feast is celebrated the first year after death, the 
animal which the deceased liked best and which he used in his 
lifetime, is generally sacrificed to him. All his relations are 
invited, these alone partaking of the sacrificial meal, as it is 


against custom to invite strangers. The most important per- 
formance consists of the taking of the animal's bones in the 
evening, by candle-light, with music and singing, to the grave- 
yard, where they are hung upon a tree. 03 

A curious custom among the Mordvins is the " harvest of 
the dead." Already when sowing in spring they pray to the 
Lord to let the corn grow for the welfare of the living and 
the dead. During the harvest-festival the relatives of the 
deceased also reap the portion of the dead man, each of them 
cutting only a few straws. The chief part is played by the 
widow, who all day wears a belt of straw made by herself. 
Cattle are slaughtered for this feast. 5 * Among the Siryans, 
traces of a memorial feast in the harvest-field have also been 

Besides feasts decided on beforehand, particular memorial 
feasts are occasionally celebrated for some special reason. Ac- 
cording to a general idea, the dead may remind the living in 
in a dream, or by all kinds of signs, of their wishes. Memorial 
feasts are chiefly celebrated in such cases of illness as have 
been declared by a wise man to originate from some one among 
the dead. Among the Mordvins, the patient must then creep 
on all fours to the grave of the deceased to ask his forgive- 
ness. 86 Should an animal — a horse or a cow — disappear 
from the pasture-land, or go astray m the forest, one of the 
dead relations, according to the Votiaks, has hidden away 
the animal. Wax-tapers are then lighted, and just as at the 
memorial feasts, food is sacrificed to the dead, in the hope that 
they will not keep the animal, but drive it home. Even little 
adversities, such as a failure in distilling brandy, or the loosen- 
ing of a wheel on a journey, the restlessness of a baby, etc., 
may become reasons for preparing a memorial feast/ 7 A 
widow, at least, must always be on the lookout. If the 
Cheremiss woman's back aches, she believes that her deceased 
husband has had sexual connexion with her during the night. 
Then she must light a wax-taper and sacrifice to the dead 



man, saying: " Make me well again. Here are pancakes and 
a candle, eat and do not touch me any more." 6S The customs 
of Finnish widows are described by Agricola in the following 
words: "The deceased (Manninkaiset) also received their 
offerings when widows re-married." 


BESIDES memorial feasts in honour of some particular 
person, general ones are also celebrated, on which occa- 
sion all the deceased belonging to the family are remembered. 
Such feasts are called by the Cheremiss "taper-feasts," be- 
cause then, as at memorial feasts in general, a number of wax- 
tapers are lighted. The Volga Finns seem to have two sepa- 
rate memorial feasts each year, namely, one in spring at 
Easter-time, and another in autumn, at the end of field-labour. 

General memorial feasts are here celebrated either in such 
manner that every family circle remembers its own dead by 
itself, or that related families assemble at the house of the 
head of a greater family, to celebrate in common the memory 
of their mutual dead relations. At times even the whole village, 
which in that case is a so-called family-village, will celebrate 
in common the memory of its dead. Nowadays the first- 
named way would seem to be most in use, but in many places, 
even up to our days, remainders of the last-named also have 

The ceremonies observed at the general memorial feasts 
recall very much those of the special ones. To every relation 
kept in memory a wax-taper is lit, meat and drink being also 
sacrificed. To those no longer remembered a mutual taper 
is also lighted. When crumbling bread and pouring gin into 
the trough of the dead the Votiaks say: " Ye long ago de- 
ceased, may this food we are sacrificing to you reach you." 
In some places a farewell feast is still celebrated on the morn- 
ing of the next day. 


When the memorial feast lasts a day and night, the family 
must see that the dead are not bored in any way and that 
they do not go away hungry from the feast. In order to 
amuse their dead relations, the Votiaks, among other things, 
take them for a walk. They believe that near to every par- 
ticipant in the feast there is a dead person of the same age, 
who in his life-time was more intimate with him than with 
anybody else, and it is therefore the duty of every participant 
to amuse and regale the soul in his vicinity. According to the 
belief of the Votiaks the deceased does everything that his 
living relation of equal age does} the more cheerful the par- 
ticipant is, the more cheerful is his dead friend; the more 
sated he is, the fuller is the deceased. From this it follows 
that, at the memorial feast, people eat and drink as much as 
possible, so that the dead need not go away hungry. For the 
same reason, it is not proper to work on this occasion, so as 
not to vex the deceased by not only not amusing him, but by 
actually compelling him to work. Therefore, also, people 
do not go to bed during a memorial feast, as the deceased 
who has been in company with the sleeping, might easily 
sleep too long and thus remain among the living when the 
other dead are taken to the burial ground. 1 

The most remarkable of all the Volga peoples' memorial 
feasts is the one celebrated during Easter-week. The night 
before Maundy Thursday is called " the wandering-night of 
the dead" by the Votiaks. They believe that all the dead 
then move about. On the night before, after sunset, these 
rise from their graves and make for the villages. At night 
one can even see them, if one turns one's clothes inside out, 
and, putting a horse-collar round one's neck, goes up on the 
roof of the house. But during this time the Votiaks take many 
precautions. Thus, they do not work, nor do they heat the 
oven, nor may they bring anything to the house, or take any- 
thing away from it. In many places, they do not even feed 
the cattle, at least not with their hands, the food being pushed 


before the animals with their feet. In some parts the young 
people are warned not to take even a stick or a distaff into 
their hands, as the one who does this will be bitten by a snake 
the following summer. In the night-time everything must be 
still. Food must be set forth on every table, and it is even 
carried to the bath-house, where the dead go to have baths. 
During the feast, they place on a bench by the door pancakes, 
pies, bread, cheese, eggs, etc., for the dead, and, in addition two 
empty vessels, on whose brim they fix a little home-made wax- 
taper for each of the dead relations retained in memory. On 
the bench spoons are also placed for the invisible hands of 
the spirits. When throwing food and pouring drink into the 
vessels set forth for the dead, the Cheremiss say: " Dead 
people, eat, drink, give us health, peace, success and wealth; 
multiply our cattle, make our corn grow, give us a good wind 
for cleaning the corn, and protect us from destruction by fire, 
water and evil spirits! " In other places the door is opened, 
and food is thrown over the threshold, with the saying : " Ye 
deceased, eat and drink, do not be angry, do not go away 
hungry, may ye live in light in the other world, may the 
earth on your graves feel light, do not torment us, the sur- 
vivors, with illnesses, do not attack our cattle and do not worry 
us with other calamities!" The names of all the relations 
retained in memory are mentioned at the feast. At the same 
time the ruler of the graveyard is remembered. Even to the 
dead that have no surviving relations they light a mutual 
taper and throw some morsels of food. When the ceremonies 
are over, the food of the dead is carried out into the yard, 
where it is eaten by the dogs. 2 

With this feast are frequently connected all kinds of pro- 
tective ceremonies. Pervuchin relates of the Votiaks that on this 
occasion they collect all sorts of weapons and go to the nearest 
forest, shooting and shouting, in order to chase away wolves 
and other beasts of prey. Having returned, they take a scythe, 
a shovel or a spade, and some ashes from the hearth and draw 


a ring round their houses to protect them from evil spirits, 
who at this time are abroad everywhere. When going to bed, 
they burn juniper in the hut, and shut the windows, the smoke- 
hole and the openings under the floor, lest the spirits should 
get in. In some places the young men sit armed all night on 
the roof of the hut or the store-house to watch for these. 
The spirits generally appear in the shape of a cat or a dog, 
sometimes even in that of a wolf. Next morning, in the 
yard, a fire of straw is made, over which the members of the 
family jump one after another, to purify themselves. 8 
The idea that the spirits of the dead walk about early in 
' spring is a common one among the Slavic and other East 

1 European peoples. During the Christian era the above festival 

I coincided with the Easter festivities, but, in some parts, the 

I Cheremiss have retained for it a more original time, namely, 

I the first new moon in the month of March.* 

From the Russians, the above ideas reached the Orthodox 
Esthonians, who were in the habit of celebrating a similar 
memorial feast on Easter morning. The hostess spread a 
clean table-cloth in the yard near the gate, and placing on it 
every kind of food, milk, cheese, butter, meat, pies, etc., she 
began calling the dead relations, saying: " Come, (the names 
are mentioned), come yourselves and bring your children with 
you, come and partake of our food and our drink! I invite 
you in hospitable mood, with a tender heart; I serve you first, 
and help myself afterwards." Having kept silence for a 
while, in order to give the dead people time to eat and drink, 
she then began counselling them to return : " Go away, let 
it be enough of eating and drinking, go where ye were taken, 
each to his place j lead the children by the hand, go away!" 
The food of which the deceased had had their portion, was 
taken back to the hut and placed on the table, round which 
the family sat down to eat. 5 

According to a general belief among the Baltic Finns, the 
dead move about in autumn. The month of October is called 



by the Esthonians " the time of the spirits " (Hingede aeg) 
or " the month of the spirits " (Hingekuu). Occasionally, 
this time lasts until November, which not infrequently is 
called " the month of the dead " (Kooljakuu). The Catholic 
festivities of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day were more 
especially devoted to the dead. During these days it was 
not permitted to shout or make a noise, huts were cleaned, 
and food was set forth at night for the dead. The festivity 
coinciding with the Catholic All Saints' Day was called by the 
Finns, Kekri, of which Agricola says: " Kekri multiplied the 

The oldest description of the Kekri-feast is to be found in 
E. Castren's narration about the neighbourhood of Kajana in 
1754. He says that the Kekri-feast or All Saints' Day was 
celebrated in two different ways: partly in the pagan manner 
in honour of the ancient Finnish god Kekri, partly in the 
Catholic way, in honour of all the saints. According to the 
heathen custom, a half-year-old sheep was killed either in 
the evening before the feast-day or very early the next morn- 
ing. The sheep was boiled, the bones being kept intact, and 
it was not allowed to be tasted, not even to try its saltness, 
before the carcase had been served whole on the table. Then 
it had to be eaten until the last morsel had gone and no re- 
mains were left. By Kekri other spirits also were meant, for 
whom all sorts oi eatables and drinkables were prepared on 
the evening before the feast day, some in the cow-house for 
the welfare of the cattle, others in the stable for luck with 
horses, others under big trees and by huge stones in the fields 
or in the forest, and yet others in all these places at once. 
According to the Catholic way, the host received the saints 
outside in the yard, in the darkness of the evening before the 
feast, taking them to the bath-house, which had been particu- 
larly cleaned and heated for their use and provided with cold 
and hot water and " bath-brooms." A table with meat and 
drink had also been placed there. The host waited on these 


guests at certain fixed times, and finally, on the evening of 
the following day, All Souls' Day, late and in the dark, with 
bared head, and pouring on the ground some beer and brandy, 
he took his guests out of the yard. If, after the baths of the 
" saints," there were straws in the water, it was the sign of a 
good harvest, but if there were instead chips of wood or bits 
of coal, it was a presage of famine. 6 

To the celebration of the Kekri-feast belonged, further, 
the custom of disguising oneself in curious costumes. Masks 
for the face were made of birch-bark, paper, etc. People, 
masked in this way, were called Kekritar. The latter wandered 
unknown from house to house, from village to village, threat- 
ening to pull down the ovens of the house, should these un- 
common guests not be abundantly regaled and entertained. 
During All Saints' time it was also customary to regale beggars 
with food. 

As at the New Year's festivities, the people tried to make 
the spirits reveal coming events. The custom of casting tin, 
and foreseeing events from the figure formed when the molten 
tin was poured into water was of this character. Or, on the 
night before Kekri, they walked under the windows to listen 
to what was being talked about in the hut, and, from the con- 
versation going on there, to infer what would happen during 
the following year. Further, in the evening, they would 
count the sticks in the oven, and if they were all there in the 
morning, no one needed to trouble himself about possible 
deaths in the following year, but otherwise there would be as 
many deaths at the house as the number of the absent sticks 
indicated. When making bread they took from the straw 
as many ears of corn (rye) as there were members in the 
family and pressed them into the bread. The one whose ear 
was burnt up during the baking, would die before the next 
Kekri-feast. When the loaves were taken out of the oven, 
the master of the house cut a piece from one and let it 
fall on the table. If the piece happened to fall with the 



crust downwards, life would go well during the yearj other- 
wise some disaster was to be expected. In some neighbour- 
hoods it was, moreover, customary, on the evening before All 
Saints' Day, to place on the window-sill one grain of salt for 
each member of the family. He whose grain of salt melted 
during the night, was to die. It was also customary to burn 
Kekri-fires, most probably for the purpose of driving away 
spirits. The fire was burnt on some hill and was made of 
oakum mixed with straw. 7 

A corresponding feast is known also among the Esthonians 
and seems to be common among the Baltic Finns, though the 
wandering-time of the dead has later been influenced by the 
Catholics, who, since 835, have celebrated the first of Novem- 
ber as All Saints' Day and, since 998, the second of November 
as All Souls' Day, The name kekri or keyri seems further 
to be known among the Russian Lapps (kevre, kovre y " a 
sacrifice"). 8 

In Western Finland the belief prevails that the spirits 
walk at Christmas. Even in our days young people are 
in the habit of dressing up and masking themselves at Christ- 
mas and going about the farms, where they are called 
" Christmas Mothers." This custom together with the idea 
behind it is borrowed from Scandinavia. Like the Scandi- 
navians, the Lapps also believed that at Christmas the dead 
left their underground dwelling and set out to wander through 
the woods and fells. For this reason, the children had to keep 
still during that time; if they made a noise, ghosts would 
appear. When, on Christmas night, the shamans sat at the 
entrance of their dwelling, they felt the spirits climbing over 
their legs into the tent. Food, and particularly some water, 
had to be set out when the spirits came. In order to protect 
their wells from being destroyed by the spirits, the Lapps used 
to throw pieces of metal into the water on " the most danger- 
ous evening." If they did not treat the underground people 
well, these might take a cruel revenge, e.g., suck out the brain 


from a man's head. These spirits, walking about at Christmas, 
were called by the Lapps, " the Christmas people." * 

The keeping of Christmas by the Swedish Lapps in heathen 
times is described by the missionary Graan, who says that the 
Lapps then collected morsels from all the dishes prepared 
for the feast and put them into a small trough of J>irch-bark, 
shaped like a little sailing-boat with masts, sails and oars. 
They then searched out the tallest pine-tree near the tent, 
and into the tree nearest the pine they put the boat as high 
up as their hands would reach, but in the trunk of the pine 
they cut round figures on four sides. Into each 
of these, every man in the village who had put 
food into the trough, had to throw three spoon- 
fuls of fat with his left hand. According to 
Graan they also used to set up a tree, four yards 
high, with twigs set half-way up it. This tree L * pp Christmas 
was smeared with blood from a slaughtered UST ° M 

reindeer on Christmas Eve, and on its branches were put mor- 
sels of the animal's lungs, heart, tongue and lips. 10 

Mallmer relates that at Christmas they made boats of fir, 
three-quarters of a yard long, with masts, which were then 
dedicated to " the Christmas Master." The boat with its 
masts was smeared with reindeer-blood and here and there the 
sign of the cross was drawn on it. 11 Hogstrom adds that the 
sailing-boats were placed in tall trees, not in a hanging posi- 
tion, but resting on branches. Even the pine was marked with 
the sign of the cross and was smeared a good way upwards 
from its root with reindeer blood. Moreover, it had been 
customary, he says, to hang up a trough of birch-bark in tall 
trees which were carved on two sides and marked with the 
sign of the cross. Into the trough Christmas food, fish, cheese 
and milk were laid. On its rim were stuck two spade-like 
sticks, one foot long (most probably, as oars). This sacrifice 
was made to a spirit called Ruotta, " to prevent it from pierc- 
ing the womb of the wom&n." x * 


This sailing-boat sacrifice among the customs of the Lapps, 
cannot fail to attract attention, as the Lapps themselves did 
not use sailing-boats. With reason does Fritzner therefore 
compare the " Christmas people " of the Lapps, who are fur- 
thermore worshipped in connection with a foreign feast, with 
the Icelanders' Jolasveinar, who were also believed to move 
about at Christmas. 13 Remains of this belief are met with still 
in our days everywhere in Scandinavia. In Lapland the above- 
named custom of sacrificing is limited to the Lapps of Scan- 

A common feast in honour of the deceased, celebrated at a 
time agreed upon by the relations, has been retained in East 
Karelia. This feast was arranged by the owner of a farm 
agreed on beforehand. Many animals were killed, and the 
invited relations and friends brought with them food in abun- 
dance. For the deceased a cloth was spread in a separate 
room on a separate table, on which something, a spoon or a 
dish, had to be laid every day for nine weeks. Into the walls 
of the room many nails were driven, for the deceased to hang 
their clothes on. The day before the feast the food was put 
on the table, round which empty chairs were placed. The 
windows were opened, after which all the family went to the 
burial-ground to invite the deceased to the feast. Everyone 
invited his kinsfolk, the women weeping aloud: " Come and 
bring with you your relations unto the ninth generation ! Kins- 
folk, bring all your acquaintances with you!" " 

According to the oldest sources, the Mordvins were earlier 
in the habit of celebrating from time to time, after a longer 
period, e.g., fifty years or so, a great common feast for a 
large family, in honour of the deceased. 16 

It is customary among the Cheremiss to celebrate a memorial 
feast also in honour of the unknown deceased who have no 
relations in life. Such deceased are called Utumo. Nowadays 
these feasts are customary only among the Eastern Cheremiss. 
The feast is celebrated in the village community in summer 


when many insects and larvae have appeared in the fields, 
hindering the growth of the crops. The guests put on their 
holiday attire, and the ceremonies, which resemble those at a 
wedding, are led by a host, who is called the " head of the 

) wedding." The " wedding-women " also appear, wearing 

round their shoulders beautiful shawls embroidered with silk, 

^ and also the " wedding-dancers," who are commanded by a 

leader with a whip to which a bell is fixed. Further par- 
ticipants in the festivity are a drummer and a bagpiper. As 
in a wedding-procession — only without a bride and bride- 
groom — the villagers, carrying with them pancakes, bread, 
beer and brandy, with the functionaries and pipers at their 

} head, go to the corn-field, round which they drive or walk 

three times, following the sun. Every now and then the 

h procession stops, a wax-taper is lighted and the festival food 

is tasted, part of which is also sacrificed to the dead. All the 

■i time music is played and wedding-songs sung. In the mean- 

; time the old people have started for the burial-ground, where 

; a black ox is to be sacrificed to the Utumo. The killing, the 

cooking of the sacrifice-meat, and the eating of it take place 
by the burial-ground, outside its enclosure. Having marched 
or driven round all the corn-fields of the village, the wedding- 
procession also arrives at the graveyard. Thinking of the 
Utumo, everyone places a wax-taper on the fence. A prayer 
noted down by the author in the District of Birsk runs thus: 
"Utum man, Utum woman, protect our fields from larvae, 
from butterflies! A large ox has been killed, come with your 
family and eat. Do not touch the corn!" After the meal 
the ox-hide is cut into one narrow strip, long enough to sur- 
round the whole of the burial-ground. The bones of the ox 
and certain parts of the meat are buried in the earth. The 
sacrifice is, however, not often performed immediately} fre- 
quently it is enough to make only a promise, which is done 
in this way:-— a bast-rope is wound by the old people of the 
village round the tree dedicated to the Utumo in the grave- 


yard. If the rope is wound one, three, five or seven tames 
round the tree, this means that the sacrifice will be per- 
formed after so many years. The number must always be an 
odd one. The old promise-rope is not burnt till the sacrifice 
is performed. On account of its similarity with the wedding- 
ceremonies, this memorial feast is called " Utum-wedding." 

At times a single family must also perform an Utum-sacri- 
fice. If there are many mice in the store-house, it is, accord- 
ing to the Cheremiss, a sign that the Utumo claim a memorial 
feast. It is generally not celebrated at once, but the father 
of the family goes to the forest and hunts up as large a piece 
of lime-bark as possible, which he then twists into a rope and 
winds nine times round the aforesaid tree. Thus they need 
not perform the sacrifice till nine years later. In the wedding 
ceremonies only the members of the family participate. This 
time they do not go to the corn-field, but instead wander three 
times round the farm-yard, going into the store-house, the 
larder and the cow-house. The sacrifice, which also now 
consists of a black ox, is performed, cooked and eaten at the 
burial-place. 18 

Only a few of the innumerable dead can, in the long run, 
avoid the fate of the Utumo, the identity of which becomes in 
time quite effaced from the memory of the living. Castren 
says of the Samoyeds that only their shamans remain " im- 
mortal." However, some other remarkable persons, such as 
famous ancestors, princes, heroes, etc., may be retained for a 
longer time in the memory of their survivors and be wor- 
shipped as household-gods and heroes. 

The importance of ancestor worship in the social life of 
the Finno-Ugric races will be further seen from their belief 
that their deceased ancestors did not only create their customs 
and found their religion, but even now protect and watch 
over them. The Votiaks say that if the present people begin 
to neglect the customs and usages of their ancestors, they will 
be punished with diseases and years of famine. 


The near connexion between the worship of ancestors and 
an instinctive nationalistic feeling, is very vividly described 
by the Norwegian missionary Isaac Olsen (f 1730) in his 
account of the Lapp's belief in his underground spirits, whose 
dwellings, clothes and language are perfectly similar to those 
of the Lapps living above ground. The underground people 
exhort the Lapps to "have just such dwellings, ceremonies 
and customs, clothes and language and other things as the 
living have seen among the dead, impressing this especially 
upon the shamans, whose duty it is to instruct the others and 
educate them by a wise discipline. They speak the Lapp 
tongue with them, as this language is the best of all, and warn 
them not to speak any other language than that spoken by 
their gods, which was created by their first shamans, the spirit- 
folk, and other ancient beings. This they must do, if they 
wish to live long and happily, to have success in their trades, 
and to keep themselves and their cattle in good health." " 



THE MANNER in which life beyond the grave was 
regarded appears plainly from the burial ceremonies. 
The Lapps say that they fit out the dead with provisions and 
various implements " so that these may satisfy their hunger, 
go fishing, or chop wood, as they did before, while alive." l 
The " ancient Cheremiss " till and sow their fields over there, 
practise cattle-raising, hunt, fish, keep bees, marry and go 
visiting each other. As in their former life, the dead can 
suffer from cold and hunger. 2 To help protect them from 
cold, the Voguls, when they have warmed themselves in the 
open at a fire of logs, leave a few pieces of wood behind in 
order that the dead may also be able to warm themselves. 3 
The dead may even find themselves in situations of mortal 
danger in the life beyond. The Mordvins and Cheremiss 
believed that the dead, having lived for a certain period in the 
underworld, could die a second time.* 

A general belief is that the life beyond is lived under the 
earth. The passage occurs in a Vogul song: " The dead 
people go to the land below "j also, in Ostiak folk-poetry we 
read: "We arrive at the sea belonging to the man living in 
the underworld." s In its nature this underworld resembles 
the world we live in in everything, with the exception that, 
seen with our eyes, everything there would appear inside out 
or upside down. The Lapps believe that the dead walk 
there with the soles of their feet against ours. According to 
the Samoyeds the same rivers and streams exist there, but 
flow in opposite directions. The tops of trees there grow 


downward j the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. The 
life of those over there runs also contrary to oursj they be- 
come younger and grow smaller with the years, until they 
disappear and become nothing or are born into the family 
again as children. In this way, the " shade " lives as long in 
the underworld as its predecessor on the earth." The Ostiaks 
say that the dead dwindle in the end to a little beetle/ 

The belief that everything is topsy-turvy in the under- 
world, appears also in the worship of the dead. From this 
springs the custom of washing the dead, or sacrificing to them, 
with the left hand. When the Mordvins reap the portion 
of the dead, they hold the sickle by the blade, throwing it 
backwards over their heads. 8 To sacrifice backwards, contrary 
to the sun's motion, with clothes inside-out, or to place the 
offering upside-down on graves, is characteristic of the Finno- 
Ugrian cult of the departed. The idea of an inverted world 
seems to have been derived from the reflection seen in the 

Just as the villages were formerly family-villages and the 

graveyards contained only members of the same family in 

; their ground, it is believed that the dead live together in 

I villages, the coffin of each of their inhabitants forming their 

j private " houses." The Volga Finns call the first one to be 

buried "the graveyard ruler "j he is supposed to keep order 

in the graveyard-community, and at commemoration feasts 

a special candle is lit for him and food is sacrificed. That 

discipline is actually upheld in the underground village is 

shown by the Votiaks' belief that the dead receive very un- 

'] willingly into their ranks newcomers who have been noted 

in life for evil ways and quarrelsomeness." To meet with 

death in a strange district is regarded as a great calamity, be- 

[ cause the " shade " of the dead one, according to a prevalent 

belief, is forced to dwell where the body lies, or at any rate 

) in its immediate neighbourhood, and is therefore prevented 

;; from joining its relatives. When such a death occurs, certain 


tribes, including the Voguls, perform a mock burial to entke 
the dead to the burial-place of its home. 10 

The Finns called the " world beyond " under the earth 
Manala (orig. maan-ala = " underground " ) or Tuonela 
(" the home of Tuoni " ). Tuoni, which occurs also in the 
language of the Norwegian Lapps as Duodna, means " the 
dead one," later, also " death " and the " life beyond," and is 
probably a Scandinavian loan-word (cf . Swedish dam-arf, " an 
inheritance falling to the State" ). In Tuonela everyone has 
his own u house," as pictured by a Finnish folk-song in the 
following words: " Of the finest turf the roof, of fine sand 
the floor is made, a fathom long is each side-wall, the hinder 
one a yard in length." That this " house " in Tuonela is the 
grave itself appears plainly from lines in which the " house " 
is described as being " carpeted with women's hair, supported 
by men's bones." In an Ingrian weeping song <c Manalan 
vanhimmat " (" the elders of the underworld " ) are men- 
tioned, which " elders " appear to hold some governing rank, 
as they were not always inclined to permit the dead to pay visits 
to the world of the living. 11 

In folk-poetry Tuonela seems to be regarded as a common 
underworld for all. On the way there, one had to cross the 
" black river " of Tuonela, on which neither sun nor moon 
shines and over which leads " a bridge " (Tuonen or Manalan 
silta). These beliefs, probably of later origin, remind one 
of the Scandinavian river of death, over which one also crossed 
by means of a bridge. It is probable that they are part of the 
mediaeval views met with also in the literature of the time. 
Gregory the Great relates how a person being near to death, 
saw a bridge under which a gloomy, black stream flowed. 
On this bridge a judgment took place ; should any of the un- 
righteous attempt to pass over it, they fell down into the 
dark evil-smelling waters. Besides the Christian peoples, the 
Mohammedans also are acquainted with this originally Persian 
idea) from these it has reached the Volga Finns. The Chere- 


miss believe that the poor dead, in order to reach " the place 
of light," must travel slowly along a narrow pole over " the 
place of darkness," also called the " resin-cauldron," as there 
the souls of the wicked are tortured in burning resin. Only 
the righteous come luckily over with the help of the " Prince 
of Death," Kiyamat-tora (Arabic kiwnat, " the resurrection of 
the dead"j tora, "judge") or Tamek-vui (Turco-Tatar 
tamyk, " the world beyond "; Cheremiss vui, " head ") and his 
assistant Kiyamat-saus." 

A more widely-spread idea in Finnish folk-poetry is, how- 
ever, that the dead are transported over the river of Tuonela 
in a boat. In one song, it is related that, when Wainamoinen 
was on his way to the underworld, the daughter of Tuoni came 
with a boat and ferried him over the river. Among the folk- 
beliefs the view is expressed that the evil one makes a boat 
out of finger-nails clipped on Sundays, in which he carries 
the dead off with him to his own place. An identical boat 
was called the " corpse-boat " by the Icelanders. Doubtless 
all these beliefs about the crossing of a river of death in a 
boat are derived from Greek mythology. The furiously- 
barking Manalan-rakki ("the underworld's hound") re- 
minds one of the Greek Cerberos. To the mediaeval ideas 
belong also Tuonen-portti (" the underworld's gate ") which 
corresponds to the Helgrindr in Icelandic poetry. 

The common dwelling-place of the dead is called Yabme- 
aimo (" the home of the dead ") by the Scandinavian Lapps, 
and is governed by Yabme-akka (" Old woman of the dead "). 
The Lapps sacrifice to her, and to the dead in general, black 
animals, which must be buried alive in the earth. The most 
common are said to have been black cats or cockerels. During 
the Christian period they believed that the dead, according 
to their deeds, could come from Yabme-aimo to God in 
Heaven (Radien-aimo, the " Ruler's home ") or to the 
" gloomy " Rut-aimo or Ruta-aimo, where the evil Rutu or 
Rota tortured the dead. This Rutu was not originally re- 


garded as a devil, as it was often the custom to make offerings 
to him, especially during epidemics. The sacrificial animal 
itself, a slaughtered horse, buried entire within the earth or in a 
fissure among the rocks, points to a borrowing from the 
Scandinavian. According to Randulf, Rutu appeared some- 
times to the Lapps as a man dressed in blue. The wolf was 
called " Rutu's hound." Originally Rota or Rutu (from Old 
Scandinavian throte, " an ulcer ") may have been the spirit 
of the plague. 1 * 

A mutual belief of both Scandinavians and the Lapps living 
as their neighbours is, further, the idea that the dead dwelt in 
certain " holy mountains," " where, according to the Lapps, 
they existed happily, living m tents, keeping themselves in 
the same way and speaking the same language as the Lapps. 
They describe the inhabitants of the mountain, who seem to 
have composed a closed family, and paid visits to one another, 
riding from mountain to mountain with reindeer, which were 
sacrificed to them by the Lapps. These " mountain spirits " 
were the protectors of the living; the Lapps having often 
many such mountains to which they came when in need. 
Forbus says that these mountains were not equal in regard 
to the assistance they could give, " one holy mountain might 
be of greater help than another, its inhabitants more ready to 
listen and quicker to act than those of the other." 1S The 
Lapps inherited these tutelary spirits from their forefathers, 
or came into possession of them through marriage, and could 
even raise them themselves by offerings, becoming the more 
powerful and respected as the number of their " spirits " grew. 
These spirits would sometimes attempt to take life; by calling 
the " soul " of a Lapp to themselves before his time had come, 
they caused sicknesses that could be cured only by the shaman 
appeasing the u spirits," and leading the sick one's " soul " 
back to his body again. Leem relates that while a shaman lay 
in a fit, those present tried to guess which " holy mountain " 
his soul was at the moment visiting." After death, the Lapps 



hoped they would be received into the mountain, the inmates 
of which had protected them most during life. " There they 
became spirits themselves, and could keep death away from 
their relatives and friends for some time." " In the more 
southern districts, these " mountain spirits," there called 
" Saivo man " and " Saivo maiden " (originally a loan-word 
from Old Scandinavian sjo), have borrowed their character- 
istics from the Huldre-folk of their southern neighbours. 18 

In West Finland, also, traces of a belief in " mountains of 
the dead " may be found. In certain districts the people tell 
how the gods have borne away the dead man from the grave 
to an adjacent forest-hill, in which he must reside as a penance 
for some crime committed during his life. This belief is found 
lurking in some Finnish magic-songs, in which the name him 
(originally " forest " and " hill ") appears with apparently 
the same meaning, for example : " I call for help from hiisi, 
I seek for folk from the hill." Hiiden vaki (" Hiisi's folk ") 
means often the same as the Swedish Huldre-folk. 

The night being the time chosen by most spirits for moving 
about in, the thought arises easily, that the underground world 
of the dead lies towards the sunset, or towards the dark north. 
In these directions offerings are generally made to the dead. 
The Northern Ostiaks and the Voguls are of the opinion, like 
many other North Siberian tribes, that the land of the dead 
lies hidden somewhere in the Northern Arctic Ocean. Accord- 
ing to the Voguls, the land of the dead is under the earth, but 
the entrance to it lies far away in the north, where the waters 
of the River Ob flow into the sea. Arrived at the entrance, 
the road divides itself into three branches, at the mouth of 
each of which are signposts, telling which way, according to 
the deeds done in life, each soul must take. The ruler of 
the land of the dead, who is greatly feared, is called Khul- 
ater ("the Ruler of the dead "). In the same place is situ- 
ated the underworld of the Northern Ostiaks, in which there 
are three storeys; in the lowest, said to be of the height of a 


dog's tail, live those who have sinned most. The journey 
to the " world of the dead " appears to be across water j songs 
relate how the dead are placed sitting in the boat of Khin-ort's 
("Prince of sickness") son. In the sagas, a world of the 
dead is also mentioned, from which the Prince sends his 
assistants to bring over the dead on a boat. Although the 
view that the dead are treated in the underworld according 
to their deeds in life, is unquestionably of later origin, it is 
still probable that the Ob itself, with its " downward-running " 
waters, has suggested the idea of a chasm in the dark, mys- 
terious north, where the waters of the river are swallowed 
up and the underworld opens its gloomy portals. The journey 
there in a boat receives in these circumstances its natural ex- 
planation. 1 * 

As among the Scandinavians, where the road to Hel led 
" downward and northward," Finnish poetry tells of Pohjola 
(" northern home ") as being the home of the dead. A cor- 
responding idea to it is the Norrhem of Swedish magic-songs. 
Where this " gloomy " and " dark " place, as such called 
Pimentola (pme'd = " dark ") was supposed to be situated, 
is made clear by another name, Sara j as (from which Sarantola, 
etc.), meaning originally "sea" and denoting the Northern 
Arctic Ocean. The Esthonians called it Maksameri (= the 
Lebermeer of the mediasval German sagas) and believed it 
to be a gathering-place for sorcerers, witches, etc. As in 
Tuonela, so also, according to Finnish folk-poetry, in Pohjola 
flowed a gloomy river j both names occurring in the same song, 
and meaning, obviously, one and the same place. This death- 
river is also envisaged as a turbulent rapid, and is then gen- 
erally called Rutja's or Turja's rapids, the name of the place 
denoting a mystic neighbourhood far away in the north. From 
the songs themselves it would appear that this " awful stream," 
that " swallows up all waters," where " the trees sink down- 
ward their crowns," and where "the reeds fall downward," 
being therefore of the nature of a vortex, has its origin in 


the idea of the Maelstrom. Sometimes these "rapids" are 
said to be a "flaming whirlpool," a name perhaps connected 
closely with the Aurora Borealis, explained by the Finns as 
being " the Fire of the Arctic Ocean." Pohjola, to which a 
" gate " gives entrance, is described in the magic songs as a 
place breeding sickness and death, or " the man-eating village " 
where the evil Pohjan-akka or -emanta ("mistress"; cf. 
Lapp Jabme-akka) ruled. 20 

Mingled with beliefs from Greek mythology, the paradise 
of the eastern lands, through the medium of the Russian 
Orthodox Church, has crept into the views of the Russian 
Karelians concerning the life beyond. In a " death -song " 
taken down in the Olonetz Government, and sung the moment 
the " soul has flown," the journey of the dead to the other 
world is described in detail. In the opening lines the dead is 
asked: "Who were they who took thy soul? Were they the 
Archangels Michael and Gabriel with their angels and apostles? 
Did they meet thee bearing candles of white wax? Did the 
chief apostles, Peter and Paul, meet thee bearing golden plates 
and golden eggs? Did Abraham and Isaac meet thee bearing 
the keys from Abraham's time with which to open the doors 
of that distant time? Hadst thou during life (by good deeds) 
redeemed for thyself the guides to that world? Did they 
escort thy soul over lands rich with berries, over highly beauti- 
ful heaths? Couldst thou with thine own hands pluck the 
berries? Surely they refreshed thy soul with them, wert thou 
not over reluctant to give away of thine own berries to others 
during life? " The song goes on to tell that the way to the 
other world leads over roaring rapids and swiftly-moving 
streams: "Did an escort come to take thee over these with 
oaken boats and oars of gold? Did they come without thy 
calling, or hadst thou to shout with thy tired voice to them? " 
Over the river a dense forest grows: " Hadst thou during life 
redeemed the services of ' the woodcutters, the roadmakers '? " 
After that come very, wide bubbling marshes : " Hadst thou 


during life redeemed ' the guide over the marsh ' ? " In the 
marsh creep the ever-watchful serpents: " Hadst thou during 
life caused them to sleep? " From the edge of the marsh three 
pathways lead: " Hadst thou during life redeemed the right to 
the one on the utmost right? " On that road the soul comes 
to the blue bridge with parapets of reed, at the end of which 
is a spring of water with a golden ladle for the cleansing 
of the besmirched soul. There is also " the bed of fishbone " 
in which to rest the weary limbs: " Hadst thou redeemed 
also those during the days of thy life? " " After these, 
very great stretches of lush grass and wide fields open out 
before thee. On the grass a table is decked from 'the air to 
the edge of the air.' On the table many foods of which thou 
needst not even eat, only to breathe in their direction to satisfy 
thy stomach. Along the table run ' rivers of milk } and at 
the place of each soul, a tree has grown giving fruits sweet 
as honey. At the eastern end of the table is a balance, in which 
the events of thy life are weighed. Didst thou in life redeem 
the weighers in thy favour? " 21 

Here we thus meet, in the same song, ideas already known 
to the ancients. The honey-tree and the " rivers of milk " 
have prototypes in the tree and rivers oi life in paradise. 

During the pagan period, separate worlds for the good and 
the bad dead were unknown. But, already at that time, there 
seem to have been views that the dead attained to different 
worlds, not on account of their deeds during life, but accord- 
ing to that which had been the cause of their death. Those 
who died in battle or as the result of some accident did not 
go to the underworld but peopled another world up in the 
heavens. The Cheremiss say that " those who die in battle 
or are killed by lightning go to heaven." !2 In an old ac- 
count of the Ostiaks* religion, we read the following words: 
u If the beasts of the forest tear one asunder, or he is shot 
in battle, his soul goes upward, but the souls of those dying a 
natural death at home go downward." In the same manner, 


Strahlenberg relates: " those who meet with a violent death or 
are killed in a fight with the bear, go immediately to heaven, 
but those dying a natural death in their beds or elsewhere 
must worship for a long time a stern god under the earth, 
before they can go up to heaven." Z3 Similar ideas are met 
with in the folk-poetry of the Ostiaks. In a song from the 
Irtysh it is told how the soul of a hero who, in the clash of 
battle, has received a blow on the head rendering him un- 
conscious, leaves the body to climb by a narrow stairway to 
heaven, and how he is met by three red-legged squirrels who 
say to him: " This is our word: we eat our food in the midst 
of human blood, we drink our drink in the midst of human 
blood, go back!" When the soul of the hero returned, con- 
sciousness returned also to him. In another story a hero in 
heaven is accorded permission by the Heaven god to return 
to earth to help his comrades who are in a great difficulty." 

According to the Finnish Lapps the Aurora Borealis is " the 
dead in battle, who, as spirits, still continue battling with one 
another in the air." The Russian Lapps also declare the Au- 
rora Borealis to be " the spirits of the murdered." These live 
in a house, in which at times they gather together and begin 
stabbing one another to death, covering the floor with blood. 
"They are afraid of the sun, hiding themselves from its 
rays." The Aurora Borealis appears " when the souls of the 
murdered begin their slaughter.'* Hence the Lapps fear it. 2 " 

The Esthonians also see in the Northern Lights a heavenly 
war, K Virmalised taplevad " (" Virmalised fight"). On the 
island of Osel they say that during the holy nights when the 
heavens open, one may see two armed fighting-men, eager 
to give battle to one another, but God will not allow it, and 
separates them. 2 * Most probably the Finns also possessed a 
similar belief} in certain Karelian magic songs Pohjola is 
sometimes mentioned as the residence of those who " were 
killed without sickness " and where the inhabitants are 
said to have " blood-dripping garments." " In a variation 


on the " song of the Great Oak " that grows so high that 
neither the sun nor the moon could shine on the earth, and 
was therefore chopped down " with its crown towards the 
south and its trunk towards the north," it is further re- 
lated that the giant tree fell " straight across Pohjola's 
river " as " an everlasting bridge " for those " killed without 
sickness." 2S The author is inclined to believe that in this last 
we meet again the idea of the Milky Way, regarded by some 
Arctic tribes as being the trunk of a great tree, along which 
those killed in battle wander. To the same folk-belief may 
ultimately be traced the Scandinavian belief in Valhall, where 
the souls of the dead in battle dwell, and, according to Gyl- 
faginning, " take on their accoutrements, go out into the yard 
and fight and kill one another." Other Arctic peoples also 
have had similar ideas of the Aurora Borealis. The Chukchee 
in the north-east corner of Asia believe that " the Northern 
Lights is a dwelling chiefly for those who have died a violent 
death," 1B and even the Tlingits in North America, according 
to Veniaminov, the Russian missionary, believe that the souls 
of the dead dwell, not only in the " underworld " far away 
in the north, but also up in the sky, where only the souls of 
those killed in battle may go, and where, as the flames of the 
Northern Lights, they battle with one another, predicting 
bloodshed on the earth. 30 

All the dead, however, do not attain to the Life Beyond, 
wherever this may be regarded as being situated. The souls, 
especially, of little children, killed and hidden by their 
mothers, remain as ghosts in the worlds of the living. The 
Lapps called these Apparas (Finnish apara f " bastard ") and 
the Ostiaks Vylep or Patshak. The Finnish Liekkio (" the 
flaming one ") was probably originally a similar spirit, who, 
according to Agricola, " ruled over grass, roots and trees." 
All those lost in forests or drowned in the water, and who 
were therefore denied the opportunity of resting peacefully 
in a grave, became similar homeless, restless spirits. 


LIKE many other primitive peoples the Finno-Ugric 
stocks regard the fruits of the chase and of fishing as 
holy. While engaged in either of these two occupations their 
actions, having a significance beyond those needed in ordinary 
tasks, follow closely certain rules. Their words for game are 
used with meanings differing from those in everyday use. 
The bear, especially, has many secret names. The Lapps call 
him " master of the forest," " the old man of the mountains," 
" the wise man," " the holy animal," " the dog of God." 
The Ostiaks have names such as " the fur man," " the dweller 
in the wilds," for him; the Finns speak of him as "honey- 
paw," " great forest," etc. They believe that were the actual 
name of the prey to be used, it might hear it and become 
angry. On hunting trips and at bear feasts even the different 
parts of the bear and the hunting gear are given special names. 
Similarly, on fishing expeditions, a special language is used. 
The Livonians, for example, when out at sea, retain even to 
this day the habit of speaking of their fishing gear in strange, 
mysterious terms. 

Cleanliness was essential in both hunting and fishing. Of 
this, traces can be observed even to-day amongst all the Finno- 
Ugric peoples. The most general methods of purification, 
used both for people and for the implements of the hunter 
or fisher, were smoking over a fire, jumping over fire, washing 
in water, or being besprinkled with water. The opinion of 
the Siryans that hunting is a " pure " occupation, animals lov- 
ing only " pure " people, 1 is common to all the Finno-Ugric 


stocks. The Ostiaks regard it as improper even for those who 
stay at home to engage in any dirty work, such as scrubbing 
floors, or washing clothes, on the day when they know that 
the hunters have reached the lair of the bear. 2 The Samoyeds 
do not hunt or fish or even cross the stream when there is a 
corpse in the village; they also avoid intercourse with women 
at hunting or fishing times. 3 

In earlier times, when the hunters or fishers among the 
Lapps set out on an expedition, they did not use the ordinary 
outlet when leaving their tents, but instead, a special opening 
in the back of the tent that was regarded as holy and was 
never used by womenfolk. This opening was called varr-lyps 
("the bloody backdoor") by the Russian Lapps, the name 
originating from the fact that the bleeding corpses of the 
prey were always brought in by it.* Missionaries relate that 
the Lapps threw in by this opening " both the gifts of the 
forest, viz, birds and animals, and of the sea, viz, fish." " 
Traces of this custom can be observed among the Ostiaks, who, 
on returning from the forest, carry in the head of the bear 
through the window and, after the feast-night, carry it out 
the same way to the storehouse.* Of similar origin is likewise 
a custom among the Finns, whose hunters, when going out in 
pursuit of a bear, lift the door from its bottom hinges and 
pass through the opening between the door and the door- 
post on the side where the hinges are. T One had also to set 
forth with due secrecy on hunting or fishing trips and without 
meeting anyone, women in particular. A very old custom 
decrees that no woman may take part in hunting trips, but 
instead must prepare to meet the returning hunters with spe- 
cial ceremonies, obviously in order thus to avoid dangerous 
contact. This was especially necessary when the prey was 
some large animal. When the Lapp brought in the meat of 
some fallen wild reindeer through the " holy " backdoor, his 
wife had to have in readiness a liquid prepared from alder- 
bark, with which the Lapp washed his face while being be- 


sprinkled by his wife, believing that by this ceremony he 
could assure himself of better luck among the wild reindeer.* 
Besides the special animals caught in or near the " holy " 
places, a woman, according to the Lapps, was not allowed to 
eat of every part of even birds, squirrels, hares, wild reindeer, 
bears, in short, of any forest animal. 9 It is also to be noted 
that slaughtering and the cooking of the meat were always 
left to the men. The more northern stocks, the Lapps and 
Samoyeds, do their slaughtering for the home-sacrifices also, 
behind the back of the tent, where women are not allowed to 
tread. 10 

The bear has always been regarded among the Finno-Ugric 
peoples as being the most holy of all wild animals. At least 
the Lapps, Finns, Ostiaks and Voguls held feasts in its honour. 
Among the Volga peoples, relics of these feasts are no longer 
found, though many of the beliefs appertaining to the 
bear are still general among them all. The bear is more in- 
telligent and stronger than a man, say the Votiaks. It under- 
stands the speech of men though it cannot talkj when they 
meet " the old man " in the forest they bare their heads, as 
is fit and proper, before the master of the forest. Sometimes 
they bow to it, go down on their knees, etc., as they believe 
that if one shows due respect to a bear, it will not do them any 
harm. Enemies are recognized by the bear even after its 
death, and persecuted by him. For this reason it is unwise 
to laugh near the body of a bear. 

In the life of the community, among the more northern 
peoples, the bear would seem also to have had some part. 
The Samoyeds, Ostiaks and Voguls swore their oaths by the 
bear. A delinquent would bite the hair of the animal, or its 
nose, claws or teeth, saying: " If I am wrong, so bite me as 
I now bite thee." " 

The festival ceremonies of the " holy animal " have been 
preserved in their most original form among the Lapps j Pehr 
Fjellstrom and another unknown author having left us com- 


plete accounts. 12 Both descriptions date from the eighteenth 
century, and were made in the Swedish Lapp territory. 

In the autumn the Lapps track the bears and seek their 
hiding-places for the winter. When they have discovered one 
of these spots they leave the bear there in peace until it has 
snowed so much that it is difficult for the animal to move 
freely. Often the bear is not awakened until March or April, 
when the Lapp invites his nearest relations and friends to a 
bear-killing. This is not, however, proceeded with at once, 
the magic drum having first to be consulted as to whether 
the hunt will succeed or not. When this matter is clear the 
hunters arrange themselves in a fighting-line, and march one 
after the other in a certain order to the winter-quarters of 
the bear. As first man, marches the one who tracked the bear. 
To the end of a pole which he bears in his hands a brass ring 
must without fail be attached. After him comes the inter- 
preter of the message of the magic drum, who in turn is 
followed by the bravest of the company, their duty being to 
fell the bear, and lastly the crowd according to rank. Each 
of them has his own fixed duties in the bear feast ceremonies, 
one having to cook the flesh, another to carry water, a third 
to make the fire, and so on. When this procession finally 
arrives at the lair, the bear is attacked with spear and gun, and 
having been killed, is dragged out of its hiding-place. To 
the accompaniment of much merry singing, it is then begged 
for forgiveness that its sleep was disturbed, and thanked for 
the little trouble it gave the hunters and that none of the 
staves or spears was broken. 

In all this, the Lapps follow many curious customs handed 
down from their ancestors. They whip the bear with slender 
twigs as soon as it has been dragged from its lair, or they lay 
their skis against it as a token of their victory. It is also cus- 
tomary to weave a ring of fir-twigs round the lower jaw of 
the animal, to which ring the highest in rank among the crowd 
fastens his belt and, accompanied by the merry singing of 


the others, drags the iallen bear a little way from its place. 
The Lapps also indicate their bravery by swinging their spears 
threateningly against the dead enemy as though it were still 
alive. After this play the carcass is covered with branches of 
fir and left lying there until the next day. 

When the hunters approach their home after a successful 
hunt, they indicate their success by a merry traditional singing 
at the first sound of which the women in the tent begin to array 
themselves in festive garments, answering meanwhile the sing- 
ing of the heroes by a similar singing. According to Fjell- 
strom the leader of the crowd usually plaits a twig of fir 
{soive-rise) , at the end oi which he forms a little ring. 
With this twig he strikes thre"e times at the backdoor of the 
tent, saying : " Soive-olmai," if the prey be a male animal, 
and " Soive-neida " if it be a female. The same name was 
afterwards given to the hunter and his wife. From another 
source we learn that the wife of the hunter or some other 
person gives him a twig of birch, plaited solely for this occa- 
sion, to which the womenfolk have to fasten copper rings. 18 
According to Randulf , the slayer of the bear informs those at 
home of his arrival by pushing an alder-branch under the wall 
of the tent. When the wife notices this, she tries to take 
hold of the branch, but the man draws it out again, repeating 
this manoeuvre three times, from which the wife understands 
that " the holy hound of God n has been felled. Before the 
hunters enter the tent they sing for a while outside, until the 
women are ready to receive them. 1 * 

The women, who on no account may go near the bear, or 
take part in its slaughtering, have now, as the men enter 
through the sacred backdoor, to cover their faces with a cloth. 
Should they wish it, they are allowed to cast a glance through 
a copper ring at those entering} but at the same time, according 
to an old custom, they must spit the juice of chewed alder- 
bark in the faces of the hunters, from which the men's faces 
become quite red. The same thing is done to the dogs which 


have taken part in the hunt. Sometimes both men and women 
paint their bodies with alder-bark juice — a ring round the 
arms, lines on the breast and a cross on the forehead. The 
women also sometimes paint their faces red. 1 ' It is further 
the custom for women to decorate their husbands with brass 
rings and chains, which are hung on the neck and, under the 
garments, round one hand and foot. The twig described above 
is now given into the care of the bear-killer's wife; she wraps 
it in a piece of linen and keeps it until the tail of the bear has 
been cooked and eaten. The news of the killing of the bear 
having thus been spread, the Lapps feast in honour of the 
day on all the delicacies they can command, men and women, 
however, eating in separate groups. Nothing else is even at- 
tempted to be done on this day. Everyone goes to sleep in 
the evening in the finery which has during the day fallen to 
their lot, the husbands forsaking their usual couches with their 
wives and sleeping, like the women, with their own sex only. 
The next day measures are taken for the transport of the 
bear. All the men do not go out for this purpose, some of 
the hunters remaining behind to prepare a temporary dwelling- 
place for the bear. This is formed of hewn boards and is 
covered with branches of fir. Rooms of this description for 
the cutting-up and cooking of the bear are built where the 
bear, as, for example, at Jockmock, is not carried to the holy 
back-compartment of the tent." Most of the men, however, 
go out to bring in the bear, all of them being, like the reindeer 
detailed for the work, decorated with rings and chains of brass, 
those of the reindeer being hung round its neck. It is also 
usual to draw a ring with alder-bark juice on the neck of the 
reindeer and a cross on its forehead, sometimes also other 
figures. On the way the men sing merrily, and pray to the 
bear not to send bad weather to inconvenience them. During 
the whole time care must be taken not to cross over the track 
of any woman. Neither is it advisable for a woman, for the 
period, at least, of the ceremonies, to pass over the track left 


behind by the bear, and even the use of the reindeer which 
has dragged in the bear is forbidden to women for a whole 

As the brave men near their home with their burden they 
sing arrogantly: "Here come men from Sweden, Germany, 
England and from all lands "j to which the women reply: 
" Welcome, ye noble men from Sweden, Germany, England 
and all lands, ye who have felled the bear." 1T 

The bear, brought thus ceremoniously from the forest, is 
now placed in the cutting-up tent, generally built a stone's 
throw from the holy backdoor of the dwelling-tent, and often 
decorated with garlands of hay in honour of the event. Here 
the carcass is laid down outstretched, alder-bark juice is 
sprinkled on it, and a small receptacle made of bark and filled 
with this liquid is set before the bear's nose. The knives are 
decorated with rings of brass, which, like alder-bark, are used 
on these occasions for magic protective purposes. Similarly, 
all vessels used in the ceremonies are decorated. Round the 
neck of the " holy " animal itself brass rings and chains are 
bound. The children, who are allowed to be present on these 
occasions, run frequently into the house to tell the women what 
they have seen and heard. 

During the whole time of the cutting-up the men sing their 
varying moods, trying to guess the home district of the bear, 
thanking it for its fur, or pointing out how great an honour 
has fallen to its part. Further, they beg the bear to tell the 
other bears of the honour shown it, so that these may more 
willingly surrender themselves to their hunters. In songs 
the men also try to guess what the women are doing in the 
tent, and should they guess correctly, which can easily be 
ascertained from the children running between the two tents, 
this is regarded as a good omen. 

When the animal has been skinned, the flesh is cut up very 
carefully lest even the smallest bone should be damaged, or 
some artery or muscle be broken. The whole of the flesh is 


cooked at once, the women's part separately. The blood is 
cooked first and mixed with fat; this is devoured at once as 
the greatest delicacy. With the blood of the bear, which is 
believed by the Lapps to possess magical qualities, the hunters 
also sometimes besmear their bodies, and in some districts they 
even smear their wives and children and the door and the logs 
bearing up the tent. The head of the animal with the wind- 
pipe and all the entrails hanging from it is left untouched 
until all the flesh has been cooked. It is skinned last, at which 
operation the thin, hairless region of the mouth is cut out; 
the person skinning the head is permitted the honour of bear- 
ing this skin before his face for a time. The head is cooked, 
with all its hanging burden of entrails, which are perfunctorily 
cleaned but not detached from the skull. 

While the flesh is being cooked the hunters sit on each side 
of the fire according to their rank and position. First sits the 
one who tracked the bear, then the interpreter of the magic 
drum, the bear-killers, etc., all according to the importance of 
the duty which they have had to do during the kill. The 
vessel in which the flesh is cooked must be of brass, or at the 
very least, ornamented with brass rings. It must be carefully 
watched during the cooking, as the running-over of the tiniest 
trifle of gravy into the fire is regarded as a very bad omen. 
Should the gravy commence to boil too violently it is not 
regulated by adding water or thinning out the fire, but one 
of the men must go to the tent to see whether any of the 
women has caused the trouble by unsuitable behaviour. 
Should nothing blameworthy be found there, the chief person 
of the gathering tries to stop the gravy from boiling over by 
the customary singing. 

When the preparation, which may not be seasoned with salt, 
is finally ready, the chief person deals out to each his share of 
the meat, which the men sitting in their places begin to de- 
vour; the women's share is taken over to the dwelling-tent. 
In the division of the meat certain rules are followed. Thus, 


women may not partake of the fore part of the bear, this 
belonging to the men, and the oldest man of the party must 
eat from the hind part of the bear the three or four last joints 
of the backbone. 16 It is also forbidden for women to eat the 
more noble organs, in especial, the heart, " the holy flesh," 
which the men devour greedily as the greatest delicacy. The 
kidneys also are of great merit, not only as delicacies, but as 
awakeners of love. Some suck in the gall of the bear to harden 
their natures. It is not, however, advisable to besmear one's 
boots with fat from the bear, as the latter might thus find 
out who it was who killed him. 19 When eating bear's-meat, 
knives or other metal aids may not be used, only the fingers 
or pieces of wood being allowable. Neither may one save 
anything for another occasion, but the whole of the meat must 
be eaten at one sitting. 20 

The men who carry over the women's share to the dwelling- 
tent are received by the women with showers of alder-bark 
juice in the face and with glances through a brass ring. This 
is also done by the women to the children coming from the 
cutting-up place, their festival-portion undergoing the same 
treatment. The first bite is taken through a ring of brass, 
or the ring is at least held before the mouth while eating it. 
Sticks of wood must all the time be used by the women during 
the meal, as women may not touch bear's-meat with their hands 
at all.* 1 Lastly the bear's tail, which has been cooked unskinned 
in a little lard, is brought into the tent. The twig mentioned 
earlier is brought from its hiding-place, and all the women and 
children present bind brass rings to it as ornaments.* * When 
everything eatable has been chewed off the tail and the last 
speck of lard sucked from among the hair, the tail is tied to the 
branch and returned to the men. The women then cover their 
faces and are kissed and thanked by the men for not having in 
any way disturbed the bear feast. 

In the notes of the unknown author of the eighteenth century 
we find many of the songs sung at the bear feasts. From them 


it would appear that the Lapps, like the Voguls and Ostiaks, had 
some kind of dramatic ceremonies at these feasts, in which the 
bear also is regarded as appearing. In the name of the bear 
the Lapps sing: " Now come I from great wide forests, where 
I lived, to thickly-peopled districts," or: "I thought of re- 
turning to my old place, but these young men hindered my 
journey." as 

As mentioned earlier, the Lapps do not break the smallest 
bone of the bear, but prepare a resting-place in a hole dug in 
the ground of about the size of the animal, on the bottom of 
which twigs form a soft bed. The bones are all placed in this 
grave in the order which they occupy in the bear. Should a 
dog have happened to devour or take away any of the bones, 
the missing bone or bones are taken from the dog. 2 * The skin 
of the nose, borne hitherto by the flayer of the head, is now put 
back in its place, likewise the sexual organs and the tail. The 
rings hung on this last by the women are taken off, being used 
afterwards, e.g., for decorating the magic drumj or the one who 
tracked the bear may sometimes receive them as reward for the 
bear's-meat to which he has invited the others. The final fate 
of the plaited birch-twig mentioned earlier, kept wrapped in a 
cloth on account of its supreme holiness, and to the ring in the 
end of which the tail was bound, is not given. It would appear, 
however, from the notes left by the Lapp Spirri Nils that 
" when they have cooked the flesh of the bear they gather 
together all the joints of the backbone, threading them on a 
twig in their natural order, later fastening also the head to 
it." " In this way the tail attached to the twig would fall 
naturally into its place. A vessel made of birch-bark and filled 
with alder-bark juice is also placed before the nose of the bear. 
The significance of this vessel is unknown. The custom of 
the Ostiaks and Voguls of placing food in a vessel before the 
nose of a fallen bear might be compared with the above. 
Sometimes, other objects also were laid in the grave of a bear 
— skis, a plane, a knife, etc. 2 * 



After having, as above, ceremoniously buried the bear, the 
Lapps speak in a friendly manner to it, begging it to run about 
and relate to the other bears the great honour that befell it, 
so that these may not be afraid and show resistance when being 
captured. The grave is then covered carefully with logs and 
branches of fir to prevent dogs or beasts of prey from seizing or 
disturbing the dead one. In some districts it is the custom to 
set up a little wooden spear on the bear's grave as a monument. 

All the Lapps do not make the graves alike; some make 
them smaller but deeper, and place the bones upright in them. 
At the bottom they place the hind-legs, on these in their right 
order the other bones, and finally the head, by which they place 
the bark- vessel with its contents of alder-bark juice. Accord- 
ing to other reports, the Lapps also tied together the bones of 
the bear and hung them up in trees at the spot where the bear 
was killed. 27 

During the whole of the meal-time the bear's skin, which, 
especially at the head, had been decorated with all kinds of 
brass ornaments and rings and sprinkled over with alder-bark 
juice, has been hidden away under branches of fir. It is now 
taken from its hiding-place and spread out on a snowdrift or 
against a tree near the tent. And now comes the last of the 
bear feast games. The women are led veiled from the tent 
and a bow or a twig of alder is placed in their hands with which 
they must, following the directions of the men, take aim at the 
bearskin. Lucky the one who hits the skin, as this is regarded 
as a sign that her husband will be the next to kill a bear. 
Should she be unmarried, she can live cheerfully in the certain 
hope of being one day the wife of a celebrated bear-hunter. 2 * 
The honour of sewing crosses with metal wire on pieces of 
cloth, which are then hung round the neck of every man who 
has taken part in the bear hunt, falls also to her lot. Even the 
reindeer used for dragging the bear is given one of these orna- 
ments. The veils are then taken off the women and they are 
allowed to look at the magnificent skin of the bear, but even 



now, only through a ring of brass. The brass ornaments on 
the skin are not taken away at this conclusion to the festival, 
but are left on until the skin has dried and is ready for use. 

When the bear feast is ended, the men do not at once go into 
the dwelling-tent, but delay some time still in the cutting-up 
tent. It is not seemly, according to the Lapps, for a hunter to 
approach his wife for three days after the killing of a bear. 
The leader of the expedition must abstain from his wife for 
five days. They must also purify themselves by peculiar cere- 
monies, carried out after sunset on the third day after the kill. 
All who have taken part in the hunt wash themselves with a 
solution of birch-ash in water and afterwards run three times 
round the cutting-up tent, jump into the dwelling-tent through 
the door and immediately out again, in again and out through 
the holy backdoor of the tent. While running they imitate 
the growling of the bear. Finally the wife of the bear-killer 
- catches hold of them and asks when the next bear feast is to be. 
On these occasions she is said always to have mittens on her 
hands. According to Rheen the purification takes place in such 
a manner that the men run singing round the fire a few times 
and then jump one after the other through the door, an old 
woman throwing hot ashes after each as they do so. After this 
the men take off their brass ornaments and may without danger 
return to their wives. 29 To the memory of each bear killed, 
the Lapps hammered a copper nail in their spears, their gun or 
the magic drum, the felling of a bear having always been re- 
garded as a great honour. 80 

Like the bear of the forests, the polar bear is also an object 
of worship among the Lapps. When the drift-ice sometimes 
brings with it in the spring a polar bear to the shores of the 
Kola Peninsula, the Lapps quickly capture it. Having suc- 
ceeded in killing it, they are merry and play like children, e.g., 
they creep over the bear roaring as it used to do, extolling at 
the same time their own bravery. They then make a log-fire 
round which they sit long and sing. Now and then they rise 


and bow to the bear. Finally they place a piece of salt fish in 
the mouth of the animal and say: " Thou shalt not tell at home 
that thou paidst a visit to us and received nothing, the others 
may come also, them also shall we feed." Their last words 
express a pious hope that the bear will tell all its relations 
what brave men the Lapps are. 31 

The bear feast ceremonies of the other peoples mentioned 
correspond in their main points with those related here. A 
very common custom is to place the bear or its head or its 
skin for the period of the feasting in the sacred back part of 
the dwelling-place, where women are not allowed to go. 
Somewhat resembling the magic protective use of alder-bark 
by the Lapps is the Finnish custom of chewing a piece of alder- 
wood before the skin of the bear is brought into the house 
" so that the forest shall not infect anything." M Thus, 
among the Ostiaks it is the fashion when the huntsmen re- 
turn to the village with the bear-skin for the men and women 
of the village to go out to meet them, some bearing a dish of 
water and a " smoke " in their hands. The bear-skin is smoked, 
and sprinkled three times with water. Very general is the 
use of metal objects as means of protection. More difficult 
to derive is the Ostiak custom of cutting a picture of the bear 
on a flat surface chopped out of a tree-trunk and cutting over 
this as many lines as there were hunters in the kill. While 
the picture is being made, one of the men strokes the bear's 
head with dry branches, " waking " it to let it know that they 
have arrived at the village. A means of protection used often 
at burial feasts — the covering of the nose and mouth of the 
dead — is met with among the Ostiaks and Voguls. Round 
pieces of birch -bark are sewn on to the eyes of the bear, or 
these are covered with silver or copper coins, and the nose 
is covered with a piece of tin-plate which is fastened from its 
sides by threads behind the ears. Thus arrayed, the bearskin 
is placed in the sacred back part on a low table with the head 
resting on the forepaws. A many-coloured cloth is spread 


over the back. In some districts a hat was placed on the head 
of a male animal and a muffler round its neck, while a female 
animal was decorated with a small shawl round its head and 
a pearl necklace round its neck. Women and children slip 
brass rings on to its claws " so that it should not scare them 
during berrying time in the summer." On the table all kinds 
of victuals and drink are placed before the bear, even the 
neighbours bringing these. The skin is allowed to remain for 
three or four days in the house, during which time festivals 
are held each evening, banquets are eaten and much merriment 
made in honour of the bear. The participants must arrive 
" purified," and are sprinkled with water as they enter. The 
festivals generally begin in the afternoons. Included in the 
programme are bear songs in which the birth of the bear, its 
adventures with the hunters, and its life after death are de- 
scribed j dances are performed, the dancers wearing bearskins 
turned inside outj the bear and its actions are imitated by pe- 
culiar movements. 88 Among the Voguls these bear-feast games 
have developed into a kind of drama in which masked men ap- 
pear. The masks are made of birch-bark, generally with huge 
noses, and are painted over with charcoal and red earth. Some- 
times a beard is affixed to them made of a piece of hairy rein- 
deer-hide or oakum. The purpose of the masks is said to be 
to hide the actors from the bear so that should the latter be 
offended by the play he will not recognize them. For the 
same reason the performers alter their voices, talking chiefly 
in a shrill falsetto. Everyone tries to make the bear believe 
they are not from the village in question, but travellers from 
a long way off. Without doubt the origin of the masks is to 
be found in the fear that the bear might recognize its killers 
after death and avenge itself. To the most original cere-' 
monies, i.e., those picturing the life and hunting of the bear, 
others have been added later, some of these borrowing their 
form from such modern sources as the Russian baptism cere- 

monies. 3 * 


At sunrise after the last feast night the skin is borne out 
through the window to the warehouse-shed where the dish 
first placed on the table before it in the house is placed in 
front of it. After two or three days the hunters gather together 
again in the house and then go into the shed, where each takes 
a morsel of food from the dish and eats it " for luck." S5 

From the prayers and wishes made by the Ostiaks to the 
dead bear, it appears plainly that in doing honour to it they 
wish to honour the whole race of bears. As an example of 
this the words of the Ostiak woman as she places a ring in 
the bear's claw may be cited : " When I go to gather berries, 
go thou round one tree, round two trees." When they set 
food before the bear-skin they say: " Do not touch my horse 
or my cow, I placed the dish before thee." 38 

The Finns called the bear feast " the wedding." The 
house had to be cleaned and everyone clad in his or her best. 
A young man was arrayed as a bridegroom and a young girl 
as a bride, or one only of these was chosen: a bridegroom if 
the bear was a female, and a bride if a male. The head of 
the bear was placed highest on the table and the rest of the 
meat in its natural order. In the place of honour sat the 
bridegroom and bride. The singing of runes in honour of 
the bear was customary among the Finns, certain of these be- 
ing sung while the bear was carried to the house. In these the 
hunters endeavoured to show themselves innocent of the kill- 
ing of the bear, declaring that the bear had wounded itself 
or that they had taken its life by accident. Arrived at the 
house-door the hunters asked singing whether the floor had 
been scrubbed and the room cleaned, or also singing urged 
the womenfolk to get out of the way and to beware of the 
holy bear." 

That the object of the ceremonies with the Finns was to 
ensure good bear-luck in hunting, appears from the oldest 
account of their bear feast ceremonies. Bishop Rothovius, in 
his speech at the inauguration of the University of Abo in 


1640, relates the following concerning the customs of the 
Finns: " When they capture a bear, they must hold a feast in 
the dark, drinking the health of the bear from its skull, act- 
ing and growling like the bear, procuring in this way further 

The skull of the bear had to be left overnight on the table 
and taken the following morning, ceremoniously as at a wed- 
ding, to a certain tree. First went the " bridegroom " and 
" bride " side by side, after these a man carrying beer in a 
vessel, after him a singer, then the one who carried the skull, 
and lastly the rest of the people. 

The Samoyeds, who like the Finns specially preserve the 
skull, hang it up in a tree or place it on the end of a long pole, 
generally near a road. 38 

Like the bear, other wild animals had also to be treated 
with honour. More particularly the wild reindeer and other 
scarce and valuable animals had to be received with special 
ceremonies. The Ostiaks, when they kill a stag or an otter, 
often cut pictures of these in a pine near the village as they 
do with the bear. 39 

An important question is the original purpose behind the 
Lapps' method of carefully preserving all the bones of beasts 
of prey. That this care was not only expended on the bones 
of the bear is shown by an account from the year 1724: " The 
bones o£ the bear, the hare, and the wild-cat must be buried in 
dry sand-hillocks or clefts between rocks where neither dog 
nor other prowling animal can reach them. This is because 
these animals lived on dry land; the bones of those living in 
in the water are hidden in springs." *° Even today the Lapps 
in some districts have a custom of throwing the bones of the 
fish caught by them, as far as possible complete, into the water 
again.* 1 Sometimes the skeletons of wolves were hung up in 
trees." Similar accounts are preserved of the Samoyeds. 
These also do not give the bones of forest animals to the dogs, 
but, as far as possible, preserve them. The Yuraks, for 


example, hang up the bones of the fox and the skulls of many 
other animals in trees." In the slaughtering of domestic 
animals similar ceremonies were also observed. The Lapps 
exercised the same care for the bones of the reindeer, which 
also they buried carefully in the ground/* 

Similar usages throwing light on these customs are found 
among many other primitive peoples. Thus, for example, 
we know that the American Indians arranged the bones of 
the bison which they had killed in their natural order on the 
prairies, with the intention that the animal might come to 
life again for the next hunting season. The Eskimos throw 
the bones of seals into the water in order to be able to catch 
them afresh. In some mysterious way, life is held to exist 
while the skeleton is in existence. That this belief was not 
alien to the Finno-Ugric stocks is shown by the words of an 
old Lapp who, when asked why he placed the head, the legs 
and the wings of a capercailzie on a rock, explained that " from 
them new birds would grow which he could shoot again." * s 
The same belief has caused the preservation of the bones of 
the bear. The unknown author, whose account has already 
been cited, remarks in his description of a Lapp bear feast: 
" They believe that the bear will arise again and allow itself 
to be shot." " 

In these circumstances the preservation of those parts of 
the bodies of useful animals which were supposed to contain 
the soul or the soul-force cannot originally have been a sacri- 
ficial act, but had behind it purely practical motives. Not until 
the original conception had paled could these actions have be- 
come incorporated in a cult. Then in the throwing of fish 
bones by the fisherman into the water, it was easy to see an 
act of sacrifice to the Water god, and in the burial of animal 
bones in the forest, a sacrifice to the Forest god. 


ALREADY in the sixteenth century the stone gods of the 
Lapps are mentioned in literature. Such gods of stone 
were kept by the Fell Lapps on the mountains, by the Fisher 
Lapps on the shores of the fiords, on capes reaching into the 
sea, on islands, or near rivers and rapids. These stones, called 
" Seides " by the Lapps, were to be found everywhere in 

According to accounts by missionaries these Seides had not 
been fashioned by human hands, but were natural stones, 
often hollowed out by water, having, as such, often a peculiar 
form, resembling human beings or animals. Those regarded 
as the most valuable were the stones resembling human beings. 
In some places, many Seide stones were placed .together in the 
same sacred place and were then believed to represent a family. 
Even immovable rocks were at times regarded as Seides. As 
late as the summer of 1908, a holy place was discovered at 
Lulei (Vidjakuoika), containing several small mounds about 
a foot in height, and around these ten Seide stones. When 
the stones had been put back in their places, it was seen that 
each mound had had one larger stone on it and several smaller 
ones around it. These small ones were sometimes not more 
than two decimetres in height. 1 The Seides of the Fisher 
Lapps might, at times, be stones altogether surrounded by 
water. 2 

The Lapps gave a devoted attention to these sacred stones. 
Wherever possible they were placed on green ground, where 
the grass grew thick and lush in the summer-time. In addition, 


the place where the Seide stood was decorated in the summer 

with birch-leaves and in the winter with branches of fir. The 

foundation on which the Seide was placed had always to be 

kept green, and whenever the leaves 
; or pine-needles withered, they had to 

. be renewed. 3 

When the Lapp wished to ask for 

something from his stone god, or to 

inquire into the future, he went to the 

holy place, and baring his head, took 

the god in his hand and spoke to it. 

While he was relating all kinds of 
' wishes, he would keep on attempting 

*. rr. ^l ir ,1 • j • Fic. 4. Lapp Seide Stone 

t to hit the stone. 11 this proved im- 

possible, and the stone grew steadily heavier, it was regarded 
as an answer in the negative. Even the very smallest stone, 
said the Lapps, became heavy when the god was not willing to 
give a positive answer. When the Lapp received what he had 
wished for, he made an offering as a sign of thankfulness to 
the stone, the nature of the offering being inquired after also 

' in the above-mentioned manner.* 

This method of turning to the gods was, however, not pos- 
sible when the Seide was a great rock or a stone embedded in 
the earth. Consulting these, the Lapp laid his hand on the 
rock and began his questions in the unshakable belief that 
his hand would stick to it and not be loosened until he chanced 
to hit on the exact event that would happen to him. 5 

The place where the Seide stood and its nearest surround- 

1 ings were " holy " (passe) to the Lapps. The mountain on 

which the stone gods were placed, was called in general " the 
Holy Mountain " (Passe-vara). In the same way, the Fisher 
Lapps called the rivers and lakes by which their Seides stood, 
" the Holy River " or " the Holy Lake." Names such as 
these are met with in Lapmark even today. 

The fear felt for these holy places forced the Lapps to 




observe great caution. According to Leem, they only ap- 
proached them clad in their festival clothes, beginning to make 
genuflections at a distance, as they walked. Every year they 
journeyed to them, and if it was impossible to make new 
offerings, the bones of former offerings had, at least, to be 
moved. Dwellings were erected very unwillingly near these 
places, for fear of disturbing the gods by the crying of chil- 
dren or other noises. When they travelled by a holy moun- 
tain they dared not fall asleep as that was regarded as a sign 
of irreverence. Neither would they speak loudly or shoot 
birds or any other game within their precincts. If they were 
wearing anything blue in colour, they would remove this as 
they approached a holy place. Women had to hide their faces 
or turn their heads in passing them. Even men were not 
allowed to wear any garment that had been at some time worn 
by a woman, not even foot ir that had lain in the same 
soaking-vessel as the women's inoccasins.* Hogstrom adds 
that it was dangerous for a woman, even at a distance, to go 
round a holy place. If during any journey she had passed to 
the right of one of these places, she had, on returning, to 
pass by on the same side, though it might mean a detour of sev- 
eral leagues. 7 Mallmer relates further, that when a Lapp went 
aside to make an offering, he tied up all his dogs very care- 
fully, as should one of these cross his track, misfortune might 
befall him j the wolves, for example, might worry his reindeer 
to death. When coming out of or going into his tent on 
these errands, the Lapps never used their ordinary doors, 
but crept in through a little backdoor which was regarded as 
so holy that no woman might either leave^oisejiter through it. 8 
Even today these beliefs persist in the more^ remote dis- 
tricts. In Kola Lapmark there is a holy place, situated near 
the Finnish frontier and composed of the narrow and steep 
spur of a mountain, which is the object of the Lapps' super- 
stitious reverence. When rowing past the place in the sum- 
mer-time, one must be careful to make as little noise as possible, 


wetting the rowlocks lest these should, creak. In the winter 
one drives by, step by step. One may not glance aside, 
but must look straight ahead. Having reached a spot about 
three hundred yards past the place, one must get up out of 
the sleigh, and — at least when passing that way for the first 
time — drink spirits in the god's honour j earlier, one should 
also have spilt a little on the ice as an offering. Not until 
then may one let one's reindeer run. Should one neglect 
these precautions or in any other way insult the god, he would 
cause a fateful blizzard to arise as a punishment, or, as has 
sometimes happened, bind the culprit with his reindeer and 
everything to the place so that he was unable to stir from the 

By the Mutenia River in the Finnish Lapmark there ia 
also a Seide, of which the people relate that in earlier times, 
when passing this holy stone, women were not allowed to sit 
in the boats, but must travel by it along the shore on foot. 
Near the stone they had in addition to dress themselves in 
trousers. 10 The Russian Lapps believed, that women on near- 
ing the holy places invariably were stricken with " a certain 
illness " by means of which, even in strange districts, they 
could tell the nearness of such places. 11 

One of the best known holy mountains in Finnish Lapmark 
is the Rastekaise in Utsjoki, on the top of which there are two 
large stones, and which even today is regarded by the super- 
stitious people with awe. When a storm arises on the moun- 
tain they regard it as a sign of the wrath of the god. ia Travel- 
lers relate that the Lapps say this mountain will not willingly 
show itself to strangers, hiding itself instead in mists. 

The Lapp turns to his Seides in all his different needs, for 
good luck on his journeys, to obtain plentiful fish or game, to 
ensure the health and increase of his reindeer, but especially 
when sickness or other misfortunes befall him. At first prom- 
ises are made of offerings, the promises being then redeemed 
when the sick become well again. If, in addition, one re- 


members that the Seides had the power of raising storms, one 
can understand how powerful and many sided these spirits 

Whence arose the power of these dumb Seide stones, spread- 
ing as it did a reflection of awe even over the ground on which 
they stood? The Lapps themselves hardly longer knew at 
the close of their pagan period. Signs are to be found, how- 
ever, that the Seide-cult has its root m the worship of ancestors. 
A significant feature is that the Seide is the protecting spirit 
of a certain family or clan. A report made use of by Schefferus 
says that " every family and clan has . in the land wherein it 
moves and dwells," its own, Seide. 13 A Seide worshipped by 
a larger clan seems to have been mightier than the Seide of 
a separate family. Hogstrom relates concerning this, that 
" the power of these stones is adjudged according to the 
number worshipping and offering up to them." In another 
place, he tells of a Seide that had " long been worshipped by 
a whole village." 14 Family worship — for the Lapp-villages 
were family-villages — is also pointed to in an account by the 
missionary Tornaeus: "So many households, one can almost 
say so many as there were Lapps, so many gods were there to be 
found, situated in different places by the sea. But one was 
always the highest and mightiest, and this alone was wor- 
shipped by the whole population of a village. It was situated 
on some hill, or other high place, so that it could be well seen 
of all, and honoured; but other house and family gods were 
placed in lower places." ls The duty of making offerings was 
bequeathed by father to son. The missionary S. Kildal says, 
that " when the parents died, the children inherited the holy 
mountains and the mountain gods." 1B 

Among the Scandinavian Lapps, this Seide-cult is connected 
with their beliefs in holy mountains with underground in- 
habitants, as described in another chapter. Jessen says ex- 
pressly that sacrifices to the Saivo spirits were made near a 
stone. 1 ' But these spirits were originally the ancestors wor- 


■ shipped by the Lapp families or clans as guardian-spirits. 
That also in the Swedish Lapmark a dim idea of the origin 
of the Seide-cult has remained behind, is shown by the f ollow- 

j ing words of the missionary Rheen: "These stones were set 

i " up on the mountains, in clefts between the rocks, or by rivers 

and seas, on places where they at some time or other had heard 

} ghostly noises." 1S The Finnish Lapps have also preserved 

certain interesting knowledge. A man, who happened to sleep 

the night near a holy place, saw in his dreams " all kinds of 

. ghosts, animals and human beings." It is also worth mention- 

* ing, that near these places one must never speak ill of the 

J, dead, as otherwise those underground become angry. 18 

The Lapps believe also that the Seide can appear to its 
i worshipper in human form. In the account of a sacrifice in 

) the eighteenth century, it is stated: "Then a being in human 

■ form, like a great ruler, extremely good to look at, dressed in 
I expensive garments and trinkets, appears and sits down to take 
] part in their meal, speaks with them and teaches them new arts, 
i and says that he lives in the stone or mountain to which they 

sacrifice." 2 ° To the Lule Lapps the Seide appeared in the 
, form of a well-built, tall man, dressed in black like a gentle- 

man, with a gun in his hand. 21 Also among the Finnish 
! Lapps Fellman heard a story about a man who was about to 

■ destroy his Seide because of his poor luck at fishing, but de- 
] sisted when it appeared before him in human form. 22 

I The matter is still further illustrated by the belief that the 

; Seide is a human being turned to stone. 2 * The following 

; account was written down in Russian Lapmark. Near the 

j Puljarvi Lake lived an old woman, whose husband, after his 

1 death, would visit her in the night. The old woman, who 

*i would have nothing to do with the dead, locked her door 

j and smoked out her house, but got no peace from the deceased 

^ in spite of these precautions. She related her troubles to a 
shaman who happened to visit her house. He tried to soothe 

j her, promising to remain overnight. In the evening he tidied 


the bothie, placing all the woman's belongings on one side 
and sweeping the other side clean; in the corner he placed a 
few fish-bones. Soon, both heard the deceased examining the 
fishing-net outside, after which he came into the bothie, plac- 
ing himself on the place that had been swept clean, where he 
commenced to gnaw at the fish-bones. Then the shaman got 
up and taking the dead by the hand, led him into the yard. 
Having remained for some time outside, the shaman came 
back, telling the woman that the deceased would no longer 
trouble her. " Look up at the sky tomorrow morning," he 
said when he had finished, and went away. When the woman 
went out into the yard the next day, she saw something black 
moving in the sky, and sinking down to the opposite shore of 
the Puljarvi Lake. The visits of the deceased ceased from 
that day, but at a slight distance from Puljarvi a Seide had 
appeared. 2 * 

The Russian Lapps have generally speaking had the same 
views of their Seides as of their dead. According to their 
ideas, they live a similar life to the Lapps, keeping reindeer 
and dogs, building houses, preparing sleighs, etc. The Lapps 
say they have heard how the Seide spirits hunt, how their 
dogs bark and how the snow creaks as they travel on their 
Lapp sleighs. They believe that the Seides are born and die, 
and even, at-times, celebrate weddings. 28 They are invisible 
spirits, but have the power, like the dead, of appearing in 
animal form, especially as birds. Thus, they relate how a 
Seide often flew up out of a chasm in the mountains in the 
shape of a raven. With this view of the Russian Lapps may 
be compared the similar one of the Swedish Lapps that the 
Seide is a bird, turned into stone as it sank down out of the 
air; on this account one could often make out the general 
outlines of a bird in these stones. 28 

If we, finally, remember that many of these Seides might 
be found together, forming a family, we need not be at all 
uncertain as to the origin of this ancient cult. It is possible 


that some of these Seide places were former dwelling or 
burial places, but that this is not always the case appears, for 
example, from the following account from the Swedish Lap- 
mark : " They believe that the Seide spirits live in some places, 
to which on account of the height of the mountain they can- 
not reach; they, therefore, smear a stone with the blood of the 
reindeer sacrificed in honour of the Seide and throw the stone 
high up on the mountain, where the Seide spirit dwells." " 

How closely connected were the " spirit " and the stone, 
one may see from the belief of the Lapps, that the Seide 
stone could move about and that it was dangerous for a human 
being to pass over the " wander-path "of the holy stone. 
The stone was also supposed to be impressionable and capable 
of feeling; when necessary it could be punished by striking it 
or by hammering out pieces from it. If it began to be re- 
garded as a dangerous neighbour, the Lapps would destroy 
it altogether by shattering, burning, or throwing it into the 
water. This was the death of the Seide. 28 

According to an inherited tradition, the Lapps near the 
Sompio Lake were " so modest and easily satisfied in the 
choice of their gods, that they worshipped that which first met 
their glance on going out from the tent — a stone, or the 
stump of a tree. The next morning the Lapp would have a 
new god should his first glance in the morning happen to fall 
on some other object." 29 According to this report, the only 
one of its kind, the Lapps thus also worshipped the so-called 
" accidental gods," which certain investigators believe that they 
have found among a few primitive peoples. 

Besides the Seides of stone, the Lapps had also wooden 
ones. They were either tree-stumps embedded in the ground, 
or posts driven into it. The wooden Seides do not appear to 
have possessed any definite shape. It is stated, however, 
that on an island in the foaming Darra rapids in the Tarne 
River certain posts resembling human beings have been 
found. They stood in a line one after another, the first of the 


height of a man, the other four somewhat smaller; each had 
something resembling a hat on its head. 40 Among the Finnish 
Lapps the method of preparing Seides of wood has been pre- 
served. A growing tree was chopped off about a yard or two 
yards from the ground; the upper end was then shaped into 
the resemblance of a funnel, and covered with a slab of stone; 
in this way the tree was prevented from rotting. Pillars of 
this description are said to have been formed by the Lapps 
" to the honour of the water," near waters rich in fish. 31 

Fig. 5. Lapp Sacrificial Posts 
According- to AppeJgren 

The " sacrifice-stumps " of the Swedish Lapps were from 
two to three yards high. They were shaped roughly to re- 
semble a human being, with " head and neck," which were 
then smeared over with blood. The " sacrifice-stump " was 
used only once, but " in spite of this, It was never destroyed." 
For this reason, a missionary might at one and the same place 
see " a legion of wooden gods." The relations between these 
and the stone gods is made clear in a note by Hogstrom: " Un- 
doubtedly, they make some definite difference between the 
times of sacrifice to the different gods; but this I have not 
been able to ascertain. However, as far as I do know, they 


worship the stone gods when in the neighbourhood of these, 
but otherwise gods of wood." 32 It would appear, therefore, 
that the wooden pillars were set up only as occasion arose, 
perhaps to represent some spirit dwelling in a more distant 
place. The stone Seides were regarded by the Lapps, accord- 
ing to Hogstrom, as being much more holy than those of 
wood. 33 These wooden Seides are not, however, to be con- 
founded with the wooden images fashioned to represent 
Nature gods. 

, Sacrifices to the Seides were naturally not offered up in pre- 
cisely the same manner over the whole of the wide Lapland 
area, but one may observe general main forms of an archaic 
kind among them. 

One of the very best accounts of a sacrifice, which has been 
preserved for posterity, dates from the seventeenth century 
and is from the Lule Lapps. When these had decided to 
make an offering, they bound fast the sacrificial animal behind 
the tent, thrust a knife into its heart and carefully gathered its 
heart's blood. The horns and the bones from the head and 
neck, together with the hoofs, were carried to the holy place 
in which their Seide stood. When the Lapp had come to the 
Seide, he took off his hat, bowed low to the idol and smeared 
it with blood and fat from the sacrifice. The horns were 
piled in a great pyramid behind the stone, the pile being called 
the " horn-yard " and containing sometimes as many as a 
thousand horns. Of the meat of the sacrifice which was eaten 
by those making the offering themselves, a small piece was 
cut from every quarter, threaded on to a switch of birch and 
hung on to the front of the horns. At times the slaughtering 
might take place at the holy place, the meat being then pre- 
pared and eaten there. Besides the bones, the hide of the 
reindeer was also left on the holy mountain ; the head was 
hung on a tree, where such were to be found in the vicinity 
of the idol. 84 

The Kemi Lapps had a custom of cutting down a tree near 


the Seide stone, calling it the luete-muor (" sacrifice tree ")• 
Before the sacrifice the god was asked, by lifting him, what 
he wished in return for giving assistance in some matter or 
other. The animal chosen for the offering was bound fast to 
the tree and slaughtered " after a long speech." Both the 
stone and the tree were besmeared with blood, and when the 
meat was prepared, small strips were cut out of it, threaded 
on to a ring made of young pliable branches and hung up in 
the sacrifice tree. After which, the sacrificial meal was begun. 
Should anything be left over t it could not be taken home but 
must be left at the place together with the animal's hide and 
horns. 8 " 

The Norwegian Lapps, before the slaughtering, cut a small 
piece out of each ear and the tail of the animal and placed 
them before the god as a preliminary taste. The sacrificial 
animal was killed by stabbing, and flayed in such a manner 
that the horns and the hoofs remained fast to the hide. There- 
after, several small sticks were prepared, lines and figures 
being cut in them. The sticks were called " the sacrifice tree " 
and were placed smeared with blood near the god; their func- 
tion was to represent " wax candles." We see from this that 
the Lapps at that time tried to ape Scandinavian customs. When 
the meat was carved, a piece from every quarter was cut out 
for the idol. The fire was made in a fixed spot, near which 
there had to be, where possible, a spring or brook; the whole 
of the flesh of the sacrifice was cooked at once. With the fat 
that rose in the cauldron and with the blood, the sacrificial 
priest smeared certain curiously-shaped stones, placing them 
afterwards near the god. Then, with his followers, he finished 
off the whole of the carcase, taking due care not to spread the 
bones about, but to leave all on the place of offering, where 
the hide also was left. During the performance of the sacri- 
fice, the Lapps sang their songs, which they call luete (= Fin- 
nish luote, "magic song," Scandinavian blot, "offering"). 3 * 

Slightly differing from the foregoing was the sacrificial 


custom of the Russian Lapps, as described by Genetz. Cer- 
tain features of the performance seem to point to a sacrifice 
in honour of Nature gods. The sacrifice had to be begun 
early in the morning and the gods prayed to with the face 
turned towards the east. After the flesh had been devoured, 
the hide with horns and hoofs attached was built up with 
branches of birch and fixed to a pole in a position resembling 
that of a live reindeer.* 7 Up to a few score years ago these 
Lapps sacrificed as many as twenty-four reindeer at a time. 
A great sacrificial feast of this description was not, however, 
celebrated every year, nor were the reindeer killed all at once, 
but during the space of several days, a few at a time. All 
the participants in the feast had to cleanse themselves and 
put on clean garments. The sacrificial food was regarded as 
being so holy, that one might not spill any even on one's 
garments. During the ceremony the shaman stood alone, at 
one side, with his face turned to the east. The reindeer hides 
that were stuffed with birch-twigs were also placed with their 
heads to the east. After the ceremonies the priests had to 
cleanse themselves again." 

Besides reindeer, the proper time for sacrificing which was 
in the autumn, the Lapps also slaughtered other animals In 
honour of their Seides, such as birds and other game, occa- 
sionally also strange domestic animals procured from their 
neighbours. Sometimes a dog might be offered up entire to 
the Seide, or living animals, which were imprisoned in chasms 
in the mountain or grottoes, or were left alive on some solitary 
island as a gift to the gods. There are even reports of chil- 
dren being sacrificed, ! ° 

In like manner as the Mountain Lapps sacrificed their rein- 
deer, the Fisher Lapps fed their Seides on fish. "When a 
fisherman went out to fish, he generally went first to the stone, 
kissed it three times and said: " If I now succeed in catching 
fish in the sea or the river, I promise thee their intestines and 
livers." After making a catch, the promise was fulfilled. 



Even as late as the middle of the last century, the Norwegian 
Lapps are said to have sometimes smeared their stones in secret. 
As sacrifices to the Seides in later periods, there are reports 
of money being offered up, both in Finnish and Russian Lap- 
mark j also rings of brass, tobacco, etc., all of which objects 
jwere placed in small hollows in the stones. 40 

If we follow the development of religious beliefs and cus- 
toms among other related peoples, we can observe that the 
Seides worshipped by the Lapps under the naked sky, contain 
two different classes of spirits, of which the one, the so-called 
house or family gods, little by little, are generally moved into 
the dwelling-house of the worshipper; while to the other, to 
whom might be given the Greek name " heroes," many people 
began to build special small bothies. 


THE TERM family gods is here meant to express such 
tutelary genii as are worshipped by each separate family 
and whose images are kept at home, or in the vicinity of the 
home, and which the family carry along with them when re- 
moving from one place to another. As already stated in an 
earlier chapter, Tornaeus relates about the Seides of the Lapps 
by the Tome Lake that among " many gods " there was always 
one which was the highest and foremost, the principal god, 
which alone was worshipped by the whole village. It was 
set up in an elevated place, in order to be seen and honoured 
by everybody, but those which were merely " family gods," 
stood in lower places. Whether the Lapps carried their family 
gods with them during their rovings, is uncertain, and also 
whether they used to keep them in their tents. 

The family gods of the Samoyeds are made of wood or 
consist of stones only, the latter often of a peculiar form, 
The father of the family may have as many as fifteen dif- 
ferent "dolls," generally dressed in reindeer-skins or in 
gowns of cloth. These clothes may not be sewn, but are 
wrapped or tied around the god. When travelling, the gods 
are conveyed in sleighs made specially for them, and during 
the journey the " sleigh of the gods " must be the last in the 
caravan. These images are well keptj they get new clothes 
every year, and sacrifices are made to them from time to 
time, though these are, indeed, very often of little value. 
On the occasion of sacrificing, they are taken out of their 
sleigh, which is outside the holy back of the tent, and set up 


on a dais made solely for the occasion, or are carried into the 
tent and placed in its sacred background. When sacrificing 
reindeer to them, the Samoyeds besmear the mouths of the 
images with blood and lard. When they make images of 
their family gods, the shaman must conjure up a spirit to 
live in them. Sometimes the gods have, in their vicinity, 
small arms and tools made of lead, and, for company and 
help, images of the spirits of animals. 1 

Like the Samoyeds the Northern Ostiaks also preserve and 
carry their family gods with them in a special sleigh. A more 
common custom among the Ostiaks and also the Voguls, 
seems to be the harbouring of them in the dwelling-house 
itself near the back part of the tent, in a chest or case. Later 
they have begun to keep them also in a barn, or in the attic. 
The family gods may be made of wood, metal, hides, etc. 
Besides all sorts of victuals, such as meat, fish, gin, they re- 
ceive for clothing, offerings of hides, kerchiefs, pieces of cloth, 
etc. The feeding of the family gods takes place, among the 
above-named races, at hours that are not fixed beforehand. 1 

Traces of the social signification of the family gods among 
the Finno-Ugric peoples, have, however, been best preserved 
among the Votiaks, who live a settled existence. By acquaint- 
ing oneself with their beliefs and customs, one can clearly 
discern that these family gods are really the late forefathers 
of the family, who are worshipped from generation to genera- 
tion as the tutelary genii of the family. In their capacity of 
protectors of the family prosperity, a small building is devoted 
to them on the Votiak farm. Its name kuala or kua is of 
Finno-Ugric origin and corresponds to the Finnish kota. 

The kuala is a barn-like, square building of timber, without 
a basement. It has neither windows nor ceiling, and the floor 
consists of hard-stamped earth. In the middle of the floor 
there is a fireplace bordered with stones, and on this a large 
iron cauldron is kept, resting either on the stones or attached to 


an iron chain hanging down from the rafters. From the fire- 
place the smoke goes out through an opening in the wooden 
roof. The low door was formerly situated on the south side. 
Sometimes we find the kuala divided into two parts, or an 
extra building erected behind it. The inner part is generally 
held sacred, and women are not allowed to enter it. At the 
present time, the Votiaks use the kuala only as a depository 
for household utensils, but in olden times, before their archi- 
tecture had developed into its present form, the kuala was the 
only dwelling-house of the Votiak family. 

A reminiscence of these distant times, of which the Votiaks 
still speak in their tales, is the custom in some districts of still 
using the kuala, not only as a storehouse, but also as a room 
for cooking and eating by the family, especially during the 
warm season. In this case, it is generally fitted up like a 
dwelling-house; along the walls run solid benches of red- 
wood, and in the corner nearest the door there is a table round 
which, in summer, the family assemble to take their meals. 
At times there will be found, near the door, a cupboard for 
holding household utensils. The most notable and remarkable 
object is, however, a shelf of wood in the cupboard, dark with 
age and situated at the height of a man, on which may be seen 
in some districts even in our days, a little case with a lid. This 
little case is the most sacred object of the Votiaks, for in its 
vicinity the living believe they can approach departed genera- 
tions. As a sanctuary, the kuala has been retained in its former 
condition, though the Votiaks, now that agriculture has become 
their principal means of existence, have begun to build more 
modern dwelling-houses for themselves. 

The resemblance of the kuala cult to the worship of the 
spirits of the dead is seen in the fact that the kuala sacrifices 
must always be performed within the particular family. A 
person belonging to one family will never enter the sanctuary 
of another family in order to perform a sacrifice. How par- 


ticular the Votiaks are in this respect is shown by the fact that 
if the family has a foster-son of another family, he must, 
during the kuala sacrifice, go to the praying-£«tf/<* of his 
own family, even though the latter be situated in another 
village. Further, the alien position of a married woman in 
her husband's family is shown by the "usage of the Votiaks 
of calling her by the name of her kuala-izxmly as a distinction 
from the family which she entered by her marriage. In the 
beginning of her married life, she is even for a time obliged to 
frequent her own family kuala, in order to sacrifice there, 
when sickness or other troubles occur. From the above the 
signification of the kuala cult in the social life of the Votiaks 
will be clearly seen. As an uninterrupted tie of union between 
those belonging to the same family or tribe, and not only be- 
tween the living but also between the living and the departed, 
this cult unites the present with the dark primeval time. Every 
Votiak considers it his holiest duty to know his origin, even 
after removing to a strange neighbourhood. This is, indeed, 
not very difficult, as every Votiak family has a particular de- 
nomination of its own. These family names are words, the 
meaning of which has been generally forgotten, such as mozga, 
utsa, etc. By the family name kinsfolk may know each other 
even in a strange place. This fact is of all the more importance 
as the Votiaks consider it a crime to marry within the same 
kuala family, obstacles to marriage being confined not only 
to the nearest of kin but extended over a comparatively large 

Originally, the Votiak villages were family villages; hence 
a village and a family living in it often bear the same name; 
at times, a newly built village is called by the name of the 
home village. If, in such a village, there are several families, 
the village generally takes the name of the oldest family 
living in it. Certain instances from the District Sarapul will 
show that the Votiaks really have a natural tendency to keep 
together almost as one family. Some time ago, in a village 


called Norja, sixteen fathers of families still lived in such 
economic nearness, that in spite of their inhabiting different 
houses, they took their meals in common. In another village, 
twenty men, living separately, were subordinate to one com- 
mon head. 8 

Besides by means of the family name, the Votiaks are united 
by the stamp with which they mark their property. This 
mark is generally the picture of some object, such as a goose- 
foot, an axe, etc. (The Ostiaks at an earlier time used also 
pictures of animals.) 

The mark of the father is left to the eldest son, who lives on 
in his father's cottage. The other male members of the same 
family, must therefore, when removing from the paternal 
home, procure a new mark for themselves, which is generally 
done by making a trifling addition to or slightly changing the 
mark of their former home. Having received their own, 
they do not, however, forget the mark of their fathers, which, 
at the same time, belongs to the kuala sanctuary still in exist- 
ence in their former home. Left thus as an inheritance by the 
father to the eldest son, a mark may sometimes be very old. 
As in the case of the family name, blood relations may also, 
by means of the mark, know each other in strange parts. 

As a family inheritance, the eldest son, after the death of 
the father, besides the homestead, the mark and the kuala, 
also receives the office oi "kuala guardian," whose duty it is 
to perform family sacrifices. Should there be no male heir, 
the office of " kuala guardian " is inherited by the brother of 
the deceased or by some other of the nearest male relations. 

Besides worshipping in the kuala sanctuary of the family, 
which by its master is used at the same time as a storehouse 
and a kitchen, and in which only the family in question wor- 
ships, the Votiaks take part in the sacrifices also in the kuala 
whose guardian is, if possible, a lineal descendant of the 
founder of the village family. Compared with the latter 
the family sanctuary is called " the little kuala." Of little 


kualas there are many to be found in a village, not so many, 
however, as there are families, for every kuala is not a sanc- 
tuary. This springs from the fact that every Votiak who has 
founded a family and home of his own does not mark a sanc- 
tuary for himself at once, but continues to worship in his 
father's kuala, and should he have none, in the kuala of his 
grandfather, the guardian of which is a lineal descendant of 
the latter, and, where possible, an eldest son. Thus we find 
here another suggestion that the Votiak family was formerly 
larger than at the present time, comprising several sub-fam- 
ilies, who most likely lived in the same complex of houses, 
obeying the same head. 

Of " great kualas " there is, on the other hand, only one, 
if the village is a family village, as are most of the old Votiak 
villages. If, as often happens when founding a new village, 
people descended from different families are included in the 
population, there will be as many kualas in the village as there 
are families. Every " great kuala " is called after its respec- 
tive family: mozga kuala, utsa kuala, etc. The worshippers of 
the kuala are likewise called after their family; mozga pjos 
("mozga sons")> «*■?« P*? os > etc - From the number of the 
great kualas one can thus easily find out how many families 
there are in a village. Especially among the Eastern Votiaks, 
there are villages formed of several different families which 
have moved to strange parts as settlers. Where there are 
several great kualas in a village, these are generally to be 
found in the houses of their guardians} they differ in no way 
from a private kuala and are also used like the last named as 
store-rooms for household utensils. Should, however, the 
village be inhabited by one family only, there being conse- 
quently only one " great kuala" the latter attains an entirely 
different position from the other kualas. In its capacity of 
the common property of the village, the "great kuala" or 
" village kuala " is generally situated in the garden of its 
guardian, or in a particular enclosure either in the village or 


near it. As a village sanctuary, the kuala has attained an ex- 
clusively religious significance, being sometimes considered so 
sacred that, for instance, no women are allowed to enter it. 
Thus, among the Votiaks, it has generally developed into a 
kind of temple, which development, in the southern parts, at 
least, has evidently been influenced by the Mohammedan 
prayer-houses of the Tatar villages. 

In the family kuala, as in the village kuala, the sacrifice 
shelf is generally situated on the back wall, most often in the 
left-hand corner there. On holy days, offerings are placed 
on the shelf, but, generally, it is for the most part empty, 
when not occupied by articles necessary for the sacrifices. 
In some instances, there is, under the sacrifice shelf, a cup- 
board about a yard high, in which are kept, besides the sacrifice 
utensils, smaller offerings. The Votiaks believe that the 
"Luck-protector," Vorsud, lives near the sacrifice shelf. 
Formerly, there was, on the sacrifice shelf, a little case with a 
lid to it made of linden bark, which is still to be found m some 
parts, e.g., in the Government of Kazan. The size and form 
of the sacrifice case vary somewhat in different places. For 
the most part, they are round, but very often we also find 
oblong and square ones. A sacrifice case may sometimes be 
found to be very old and darkened by the smoke in the kuala, 
having been handed down as a sacred heirloom from father 
to son for generations. 

In our time, the Vorsud case, in both family and village 
kualas, is generally empty. But can it be possible that a re- 
ceptacle regarded with such superstitious awe, forbidden to 
women and strangers to approach, was always thus empty? 
Several authorities, for the most part among the very oldest, 
relate that they have seen many different objects in these 
cases: ancient coins, the bones of birds, gaily coloured feathers, 
squirrel skins, sheep's wool, etc. But again, could these trifles, 
possessing obviously more the nature of sacrifices than of ob- 
jects of worship, have been venerated by the Votiaks? When 


one compares the sacred background of the kuala with the 
corner of the bothies regarded as holy by both the Ostiaks and 
the Voguls, and the sacrifice case with the god-chest of the 
latter, which is not empty, but among these more primitive 
peoples contains images of their tutelary genii, is it not more 
likely that the Votiaks' sacrifice case was also in former days 
a similar home for their family gods? In our days, there are 
certainly no images to be found among them. Even in the 
oldest sources we find it written that the Votiaks possess 
neither pictured nor carven images. But the memory of gods 
who formerly dwelt in these cases has not altogether died out, 
and the Christian Votiaks place even today a picture of a 
saint on the same shelf that, earlier, held their spirit offerings. 

The scanty traditions, however, give no clear idea of the 
images of the Votiak family spirits. Assuming that the sacri- 
fice cases, the circumference of which is, on an average, about 
one hundred and twenty centimeters, and the height about 
thirty centimeters, have not become very much altered in the 
course of time, we may conclude that the images were not 
very large. Most likely they were just such clumsy, dressed 
wooden dolls as the Votiaks still make for themselves during 
severe illnesses, in order to remove the illness from the patient 
to the doll. Such would also seem to have been the images 
of the Siryans, judging from the fact that in the life of St. 
Stephen, their apostle, it is stated that their images resembled 
human beings, had noses, mouths and even feet, and that they 
were either carved, or hollowed out. As they were made of 
wood, St. Stephen was able to chop them into pieces with an 
axe and burn them. There was a great number of them " both 
in the villages and dwelling houses." 4 

When beginning their sacrifice, the Votiaks place fresh 
green twigs on the corner shelf of the kuala> under the sacri- 
fice case. In autumn or in spring, or, generally during the 
time when the trees are leafless, they use, when sacrificing, 
twigs of the silver pine (Pinus fichta or sibmca)> but in the. 


summer birch twigs. The use of green twigs certainly origi- 
nates from very ancient times, for this custom has also been 
observed among the Lapps, of whom missionaries relate that 
they placed birch twigs under their images in the summer, 
and fir twigs in the winter. 

This custom of laying green twigs on the sacrifice shelf, 
which, together with the sacrificing, belongs to the most im- 
portant duties of the kuala guardians, has, curiously enough, 
been kept up even in parts where the sacrifice cases, not to 
speak of images, are no longer to be found. This is particu- 
larly the case among the Eastern Votiaks. Among these we 
seldom find sacrifice cases, but on the other hand we may see, 
even in our days, on every sacrifice shelf, whether there be 
sacrifice vessels there or not, twigs more or less faded, accord- 
ing to the time that has passed since the sacrifice. In several 
places, these twigs, which originally were of quite a secondary 
importance compared with the images, are regarded with the 
same superstitious awe as the latter. Only the officiating 
priest, who on holy days burns the old twigs and places fresh 
ones in their stead, is allowed to touch them. Certain investi- 
gators have supposed that these same twigs have been objects 
of worship. 6 This is, however, a mistake, though the twigs 
have at times had the high honour of being removed from 
their place under the " case '* to the " case " itself, and in 
this way the original idea became confused. That the kuala 
cult is concentrated around the sacrifice shelf and the " case," 
is proved, above all, by the custom of the sacrificing priest's 
standing, while praying, with his face turned towards the 
sacrifice shelf. 

We have stated earlier that not every Votiak kuala is used 
as a sanctuary. This it may become only by means of particu- 
lar inaugural ceremonies, generally performed in the summer. 
On a day fixed beforehand, the person who intends to obtain 
for himself a Vorsud of his own, invites a few guests, gen- 
erally two men and two women. The guests having arrived, 


the young master and mistress, with their guests, proceed to 
the head of the family who is at the same time the guardian 
of the Vorsud kuala, taking bread and gin with them. 
On arriving, they begin to feast in the house of the chief. 
The latter invites one of his neighbours and his wife, and these 
officiate as host and hostess, the host of the feast entertaining 
the men, and the hostess the women. "When the guests have 
been sufficiently entertained, the host and his wife begin 
singing wedding songs, in which those present also join. 
Lastly, the guests go to their neighbours for more hospitality 
and return to the kuala guardian in the evening. On their 
return, porridge is cooked by the guardian of the family kuala. 
The one who intends to secure a Vorsud for himself, now 
goes to the kuala, takes some ashes from the fireplace, and 
wraps them in a clean white cloth, saying : " 1 take the smaller 
and leave the greater." He then places the bundle of ashes 
on the shelf of the kuala and sits down to the sacrificial por- 
ridge together with the other guests. After the meal he goes 
back to the kuala, takes the ashes from the shelf, and sets 
out for home with his guests. During the journey home, the 
escort of the Vorsud play and sing, the mistress of the new 
kuala meanwhile keeping a copper coin in her mouth until they 
arrive at the homestead. When starting out into the street, 
on the way home, and on arrival, she dances to the music of a 
stringed instrument. The ashes conveyed in this manner are 
now placed on the shelf of the new kuala, the master saying: 
" I, thy master, have brought thee here with reverential 
ceremonies, be not angry therefore, and when we pray to thee, 
hear our prayers." 

In some places, the feast is held, according to an older cus- 
tom, in the kuala itself, where a functionary, with a loaf 
received from the guardian of the old kuala, turns to the 
Vorsud with the following words: "Vorsud, come with us to 
another place; do not take offence, old ones, deceased ones." 
Later, he does the same thing with a loaf from the son, 


afterwards handing the father's loaf to the son, and the son's 
to the father. When the son who has separated from the 
home of his father, has received the bread, he reverently 
carves a chip from the pot hanger of wood suspended from the 
ceiling. He takes, further, ashes from the hearth, and conveys 
these with the chip to the newly founded kuala of his new 
home. 8 

A curious statement is that he who carries the Vorsud must 
not put his foot on the bare ground, but must walk all the time 
on planks laid on the ground. 

Many circumstances in the above descriptions recall the 
customs followed at a Votiak wedding. The very tunes 
played on this occasion are wedding tunes. In some places, 
it is further customary to distribute presents at the kuala 
feast, as at a wedding. In the District of Mamadysh a custom 
recalling a wedding is connected with the above mentioned 
ceremonies, namely, that the Vorsud is taken to the new home 
like a bride in a sleigh with two horses and tinkling bells, the 
women being dressed in wedding costume. That the Votiaks 
themselves consider the Vorsud feast to be a wedding festivity 
is seen from the name of this feast, mudor suan (" mudor 
wedding "). Among the Votiaks, certain ceremonies recalling 
those of the mudor wedding are now observed at the inaugura- 
tion of the modern huts used in these days. They also call 
this festivity " hut wedding" {korka suan), on which occasion 
as at a wedding a " host " (toro) officiates. As the Indo-Euro- 
pean races observe similar customs, we may assume that the 
Volga Finns acquired theirs through a foreign culture. The 
fact, however, that the above named ceremonies refer to a 
time when the Votiaks were still living in the old kuala, in- 
dicates that they date from a comparatively distant time. 

The very word mudor, which phonetically corresponds to 
the Finnish mantere (" earth foundation "), recalls a different 
kind of removing ceremony, described by Aminoff. " When 
leaving his father's home to found a household of his own, 


the son descends under the floor of the hut, takes a little earth 
from, there, and also fire from the hearth of the hut and then 
prays to the son of the family spirit to accompany him to the 
new home." 7 A similar custom, when removing, seems to 
have been known also among the Siryans in former times. 
This appears from the following statement by Nalimov: " Even 
in our days, everyone, on leaving home for a long journey, 
takes with him a handful of earth from under the earth foun- 
dation of his home. This earth protects him from accidents 
and nostalgia." s Similar beliefs are to be found among the 
Baltic Finns. Among the Ingrians a custom has been found of 
giving to a bride who is going to a strange neighbourhood, a 
bundle containing earth from the earth foundation under the 
floor of her native hut, to protect her from nostalgia. Like- 
wise, they believe that a domestic animal removed to another 
farm, will not miss its former home, if, when removing it, 
some earth is also brought from the outhouse where the animal 
was kept before. 

In the earliest times, the founder of a new family, when 
parting from the home of his fathers, seems to have received 
one or several images of his family spirits, to take with him, 
the Lapps believing these to descend as an inheritance from 
father to son, like any other property. On account of the fact 
that the Votiaks have not, for a long time, used images, no 
exact statements concerning this custom are to be found. Only 
a few traditions and customs point back to this distant time. 
Wichmann relates about the District Urzhum, that on leaving 
his father's home, a son was given also a part of the contents 
of the sacrifice case. 10 Another writer mentions that the 
sacrifice case of the new kuala must be made in the old kitala, 
and before being removed, it must have lain for some time on 
the sacrifice shelf of the old kuala. 11 This may be the origin 
of the words in the above mentioned custom among the Votiaks 
when removing the Vorsud ; " I take the smaller and leave 
the greater." To receive a Vorsud from his native home is 


of such great importance to the son that if for one reason or 
another the father quarrels with his son and refuses to give 
him a Vorsud, the son must procure it by robbery. If the son 
who is angry with his father says, when talcing the Vorsud: 
" I leave the smaller, I take the greater," the consequence, 
according to the interpretation of the magicians, is that the 
son gets the older Vorsud, and, in a religious sense, stands 
higher than his father. If, after this, any of his younger 
brothers is in want of a Vorsud, he must apply to his brother 
with his request and not to his father. 12 

After the mudor wedding, the kuala. is a sanctuary; the 
Vorsud lives in it, and from that day, worship is carried out 
there. To keep up this is the sacred duty not only of that 
generation, but also of the following, for according to the 
beliefs of the Votiaks, the sacrifices in a building consecrated 
as a sanctuary must never be interrupted. He who does not 
observe this rule, will meet with some great accident. The 
people tell with terror how such persons have lost their prop- 
erty, have gone mad, etc. If, for instance at the change of 
guardians, the kuala should be removed from one place to 
another, the building is pulled down, and the timber of the 
walls is placed in the same order when built anew. The 
ashes of the hearth, the stones, and the Vorsud case are taken 
with ceremony to the new place, together with the timber. 
Besides being removed when changing a guardian, the kuala 
may also be taken away for some other reason. Thus, for in- 
stance, it once happened that a sacrificial bull, when about to 
be killed, broke loose and ran away from a " great kuala" 
the sacrifkers, in the midst of their devotions, having to leave 
off and pursue it. The place where the animal was at last 
caught, was considered to be so pleasing to the kuala spirit 
that the whole building was removed there. 13 If, from any 
cause, people are obliged to destroy a kuala, the sacrifice case 
and the stones of the hearth may not on any account be lost. 
As an instance of the superstition of the Votiaks the following 


legend is mentioned: A man destroyed his kuala and built in 
its stead a barn, leaving the sacrifice case and the stones under 
the hearth. Once, some young men who had gone there to 
sleep were awakened suddenly by groans from under the barn, 
like the wailing of a sick man. The next night the same wail- 
ing was heard. At last, the master himself went to sleep there, 
and found that it was none other than the Vorsud who was 
moaning. He then promised to remove the stones and the 
case into a new kuala, which he did, and thenceforward there 
was silence in the barn. 1 * 

Considering that the name of Vorsud, at the sacrifice meet- 
ings of the Votiaks, is generally used in the singular, most 
frequently in connection with the kuala family's name, as 
" mozga Vorsud," " utsa Vorsud," etc., it would seem as if 
every Votiak kuala had possessed only one family spirit. This 
was, however, not so in olden times, as is proved by the cir- 
cumstance that the Votiaks consider themselves able to dis- 
tribute them among their descendants. In one prayer the 
name of Vorsud is also used in the plural. 1 ' The idea of 
several spirits in one kuala appears, moreover, in the follow- 
ing legend: A certain Votiak became a Christian and re- 
nounced the ancient customs of sacrifice, but did not destroy 
his kuala. After some time the spirits began annoying himj 
when lying in bed, he seemed to feel a heavy stone pressing 
on his breast j when he went to the barn to sleep, the spirits 
came there, too, to annoy him. At last, the man made up his 
mind to shoot them, and one night he walked about, gun in 
hand, waiting for them. At midnight three persons in white 
came out of the kuala, the first a beardless youth, the second 
also young but with the beginnings of a beard, the third, a 
woman. The man fired, and the vision vanished at once, 
After that they did not show themselves any more, but re- 
moved to another place, sending the man a severe illness as a 

The above story, showing that in one and the same kuala 


there were several family spirits, points also to their human 
origin. According to the belief of the Votiaks, the kuala 
spirits generally appear as human beings. At times, however, 
though rarely, the Vorsud may reveal itself in some other 
form. In a story of the Votiaks in the District of Glazov, a 
kuala sanctuary is mentioned as having been on the site where 
the present town of Vyatka is situated. It is related that 
when the Russian settlers, after having driven out the Votiaks 
from their then dwelling-places, began pulling down the kuala, 
a bird flew out of the sanctuary, meeting its death beside the 
church just erected, as if stricken by an invisible power. 17 

The Votiak, having founded for himself a kuala of his 
own, still visits the old kuala, and sometimes even the still 
older mother kuala. The first, in comparison with the second, 
is a " little kuala" likewise the second in comparison with the 
third, while the second, compared with the first, is a " great 
kuala," and in the same way, the third in comparison with 
the second. According to their kuala worship the Votiaks are 
commonly divided into two groups, to both of which the same 
person may belong — the family of the " great kuala ** and 
the family of the "little kuala." To illustrate the present 
kuala cult of the Votiaks and the relations of the different 
family groups with each other, it may be mentioned that the 
same Votiak in the village of Ostorma-Yumya in the District 
of Mamadysh, besides visiting the "little kuala* 1 which is 
situated in his own yard and in whose sacrifices, besides himself, 
the families of his three younger brothers- take part, also fre- 
quents the "great kuala" situated in the same village and 
visited by seventy-three families in all. The other families in 
the village, belonging to other clans, go each their own way to 
sacrifice. The above mentioned seventy-three families visit 
also the kuala in the neighbouring village or Staraya-Yumya, 
from which Ostorma-Yumya and certain other villages were 
originally formed. The " great kuala " of Staraya-Yumya is 
visited, not only by its own villages, but by the seventy-three 


families of Ostorma-Yumya, and, also, by all the persons liv- 
ing in the neighbouring villages who belong to the same tribe. 
In later days, however, people have more and more ceased 
coming from strange villages with their offerings to the " great 
kuala " of the mother village. 

The relationships among the family groups are, of course, 
not the same in every Votiak village. Sometimes a " little 
kuala '* may be visited by quite a number of families, up to 
several score, this depending wholly on the zeal of the Votiak 
families in founding new kuala sanctuaries for themselves. 

Those Votiaks, who have removed as settlers, and even 
those who now remove far from their native place, and who, 
therefore, cannot take part in the sacrifices of their native 
village, remember, however, the kuala of their ancestors in 
their own kualas. Thus for instance, a Votiak family living 
in the village of Mozga in the District of Birsk, remembers the 
" great kuala " in the native village of the same name in the 
district of Yelabuga, because their ancestors had removed 
thence, bringing with them mudor. A remarkable feature of 
the kuala cult of. the Eastern Votiaks is, further, the circum- 
stance that the so-called " little kualas " have come to be 
neglected ; relatives perform their sacrifices only in the mutual 
family sanctuary, several of which may be found in one 
village, depending on the number of different families. Un- 
der such circumstances, mudor weddings take place only when 
Votiaks remove as settlers from the old village to a new 

Reverence for the old home has been best preserved in the 
oldest native districts of the Votiaks, where, in certain neigh- 
bourhoods at present uninhabited, we may see remains of 
crumbling huts, which are sometimes visited at the command 
of the sorcerer, for the purpose of sacrificing in cases of severe 
illnesses. A hut of this nature, which is called " the utter- 
most kuala" is most probably the oldest home of the family 
that has been retained in memory. 


General, regular kuala sacrifices are performed by the 
Votiaks at somewhat different times in different places, but, 
according to the most widespread custom, three times a year 
— in the spring, in summer, and in autumn. Later, it has 
become customary to sacrifice much oftener in the family kuala, 
in some places on every Christian holy day. 

On regular holy days, the Votiaks sacrifice in the " little " 
as well as in the " great " kuala, representatives being some- 
times sent also to the greater sanctuary of the mother village. 
The sacrificial ceremonies in the different sanctuaries resemble 
each other very much, with the exception of unimportant de- 
viations. On the other hand, the times and order of sacrificing 
in the kualas of different rank vary, sacrifices being sometimes 
carried out first in the " little kuala " and then in the " great 
kuala " and vice versa. In some places the sacrificial cere- 
monies are held late in the evening, in others in the daytime. 
At times the festivity lasts for two or three days. 

The oldest account of a kuala sacrifice originates from the 
province of Ufa and was published by Ryckov in the eight- 
eenth century. The author relates that the Votiaks sacrifice, 
" near certain branches of fir regarded by them as representing 
the family god," a young calf, whose ears they then place on 
the shelf on which the fir branches lie. The sacrificial animal 
they kill in the sanctuary itself. 18 

Of the same period is the description by Georgl, who gives 
a more detailed account of the sacrifice performed at Easter. 
The author states that both men and women partake in the 
ceremony, having cleansed themselves first by taking a bath 
in the bathhouse. Each one brings with him to the kuala 
guardian the objects necessary for the sacrifice. When the 
meat is cooked, the officiating priest places a portion from 
every dish and also some beer on a table opposite the door. 
On the shelf above the table some fir-twigs are laid, and on 
these he puts a dish with morsels from the sacrifice. These 
he takes after a while, together with the drinking vessel, in 


his hand, asking from the Vorsud happiness, health, children, 
cattle, bread, honey, etc. 16 

A later, but much more complete account (1838) describes 
a sacrifice in the village of Multan. In this account it is stated 
that the guests bring with them to the sanctuary, bread, cakes, 
boiled eggs, and, for drink, home-made spirits and beer. Hav- 
ing accompanied the sacrificial animal to the middle of the 
kuala in front of the " image," they place beside it loaves of 
bread with eggs on them. If very many loaves have been 
brought, those officiating select three whole ones, but of the 
others they cut only a piece, placing these slices together with 
the eggs on the whole loaves. At the same time, one of the 
Votiaks recites prayers over the victim, and another pours 
water on it. The prayer done, they begin killing the animal, 
letting the blood flow into a cup or a trough; the skin is 
stripped off, the entrails cleaned and the worthless parts buried 
in a pit. The sacrificial animal is then cut up, its different 
members being severed so that a piece is obtained from each, 
the head, the breast, the legs, etc. The meat is boiled in a 
pan, into which the blood is also poured. When everything is 
ready, the Votiaks begin drinking the gin and tasting the sacri- 
ficial food. At the same time, they sacrifice, three times, food 
and meat in the fire, pouring into it, also three times, gin 
and beer from every vessel. Further, all the bones of the 
sacrificial animal are gathered and put into the fire, only those 
that will not burn being buried in a pit. The prayer read 
during the sacrifice contains invocations to the god to protect 
the family, to multiply the cattle and cause the vegetation 
to prosper. 20 

In the southern and eastern Votiak Districts, women gener- 
ally do not appear at the sacrifices, and even when allowed to 
come, they stop outside the door with their children. This 
does not seem to have been the original custom. Among the 
Votiaks of the northern parts, where the ancient original cus- 
toms have been partly better preserved, women are always 


present when sacrificing at home. At times they have a rep- 
resentative of their own even at the kuala festivals, such 
representatives, besides the ordinary kuala guardian, being 
chosen from each sex for the purpose of arranging the festival 
ceremonies. These become the host (toro) of the festival and 
his wife, who sit each at a different table in different corners. 
While officiating, the host keeps his cap on. The guests arrive 
in white holiday costume at the sanctuary, where the men take 
their places to the left of the fireplace, the women to the right. 
Amusements very often follow the sacrifice : music, singing, etc. 
The sacrificial priest sings sacrifice songs improvised on the 
occasion in question." 

In our days blood sacrifices at the kuala festivals have 
begun to be scarce. When sacrificing for some special reason 
they are still necessary, but at the regular festivals it has be- 
come customary to sacrifice only bread or porridge. Even if 
bread only be sacrificed, the Votiaks, in remembrance of the 
older custom, must still light the sacrificial fire. Once a year 
however, at least, they must still carry out a blood sacrifice 
with materials mutually contributed. 

At the sacrifices, the Votiaks place one part of the sacrificial 
gifts on the shelf, while another part is burnt in the fire. When 
sacrificing bread, they always place it on the shelf in the corner, 
on which a white cloth is laid for the purpose. Sometimes 
there is placed on the regular sacrifice bread, which the wife of 
the kuala guardian makes of spring corn, other little pieces of 
bread from all the other families taking part in the sacrifice. 
Besides bread, the Votiaks also sometimes put butter, honey, 
and drink on the Vorsud shelf. On the occasion of the blood 
sacrifice, a little meat porridge, or, when the beast is a big 
domestic animal, portions of its most important organs, gener- 
ally boiled in different pans, are placed there. In most Dis- 
tricts it is customary to place the above named offerings on 
the shelf only as long as the prayer is being said. There are 
circumstances, however, which indicate that formerly the offer- 


ings were also left in their place for a longer time. Thus, 
for instance, it is customary in the District of Mamadysh, when 
sacrificing a duck, to leave its head on the sacrifice shelf until 
after the second or third day after the kuala festival, when it 
is eaten up by the priest. At Easter, a cake or a cup of water 
is placed on the shelf for the night, sometimes for a whole 
week, after which period persons belonging to the family eat 
up the offerings. The women, in general, are not in the habit 
of eating of the food placed on the sacrifice shelf. 

Such portions of the sacrifice as the Votiaks place on the shelf, 
have also been sacrificed in the fire. Is this dual sacrificial 
custom of the kuala cult to be considered as the original, or 
are there two different stages of development reflected in these 
customs? Aminoff considers that the placing on the shelf is an 
older form of the kuala sacrifice, and the throwing into the 
fire a more recent one. 22 That the fire sacrifice in general is of 
later date among the Finno-Ugric races is seen clearly from the 
sacrificial customs of the Lapps. 

Besides the blood sacrifices, the purpose of which was prin- 
cipally the feasting of the family gods, the Votiaks, in former 
times, also carried gifts to their kuala sanctuaries which were in- 
tended to serve the spirits as clothing, ornaments, or other holy 
property. We have already mentioned that in the ancient sacri- 
fice cases of the Votiaks, all kinds of objects, such as skins, 
feathers, coins, etc., have been found, which most likely had 
been placed there as offerings. In former times, sacrifices of 
this kind were of course much more abundant and of more 
value, so that many " great kualas ,y became quite remarkable 
treasuries. For this reason their doors were well closed in un- 
settled times, and the services of a special " guardian " were 

Besides the gift offerings, sacrificial coins are kept in the kuala 
sanctuary of the Votiaks, a collection of money being, indeed, 
embodied in the sacrificial ceremonies, and generally carried out 
after the feast. This is done in such a manner that every guest 


either puts his mite into the money box or presses it into the 
cake that the kuala guardian carries in his hands, after the sacri- 
fice. Sometimes the guests bring their money stuck into the 
sacrificial bread. This common money, of which much more 
was collected formerly than nowadays, is used only for sacred 
purposes. With this money they pay for the repair of the 
sanctuary and for things necessary at the performance of the 
sacrifices, and in addition for the sacrificial animals. 

Besides the above mentioned regular sacrificial festivals, 
there are others, more or less accidental, celebrated only under 
certain circumstances, sometimes in the " great kuala " and 
sometimes in the " little kuala." Occasional sacrifice festivals 
are celebrated by the Votiaks when such illnesses or other mis- 
fortunes have occurred, as are declared by the sorcerer to origi- 
nate from the spirits living in the kuala. The sacrifice is not 
killed immediately, but a " sacrificial vow " is made first, which, 
in case of lack of means, may still be " renewed," before the 
true sacrifice is offered up. But on no account may it be for- 
gotten or put off to an indefinite future. Particularly is it 
obligatory to sacrifice when a young girl in the family is to be 
married. It is related that, in the District Sarapul, when a 
bride removes to her new home, she is first taken round the 
fireplace in her old home, the while her father prays, with a 
measure of gin and another of beer in his hand, promising to 
sacrifice an ox, a calf, or some other animal to the family 
spirit. 23 In the District Mamadysh it is customary that, on the 
wedding day, the young wife makes a sacrificial vow, but the 
sacrifice itself generally takes place first in the following 
autumn, when she arrives at her native village with a duck 
under her arm. The bird is killed and boiled in the " great 
kuala," the sacrifice prayer being said by the " guardian," who 
points out to the Vorsud which of the daughters of the family, 
having married, has now removed to another family and is 
therefore bringing an offering to the family spirits of her native 
home. No other person than the sacrificing priest and the 


sacrificer herself may take part in the performance. Only after 
this sacrifice may the wife perform sacrifices in her husband's 
family kuala. In case of illness, however, or some other mis- 
fortune, she must, on the advice of the sorcerer, sacrifice to the 
kuala of her family. 

We have earlier pointed out similarities between some fea- 
tures of the Vorsud cult and those of the worship of the spirits 
of the deceased. The worship of departed ancestors is, above 
all, recalled by the close relationship of the Vorsud to the 
family worshipping the same, in whose name it is often ad- 
dressed in prayer. It is to be noted, also, that the Votiaks turn 
to the Vorsud and to the deceased in exactly the same matters, 
chiefly in cases of illness, the Vorsud and the deceased members 
of the family being sometimes named side by side in the 
same prayer. 

In comparing the kuala sacrifices and the order in which 
they are performed, with the general memorial festivals of 
the Votiaks, celebrated in the dwelling-house, we notice that in 
these, customs are observed that resemble the kuala ceremonies. 
Thus the Votiaks celebrate memorial festivals, besides those 
at home, within a greater family circle, or at the home of the 
ancestors of the family, on which occasion they recall together 
the memory of the deceased members of the family, in particu- 
lar that of the most important. This corresponds to the 
Votiaks' curious fashion of distinguishing between the family 
of the " little kuala " and that of the " great kuala. n Thus, 
it is no accident that the time of celebrating the regular kuala 
festivals and that of the regular memorial festivals fall so near 
each other. Evidently, the kuala festivals are only a more an- 
cient form of the memorial festivals, in which, instead of 
poultry, larger domestic animals were used for the sacrifice. 
As the ceremonies at a later time have become altered to some 
extent from their earlier form, both have been retained side by 
side with each other until our days. 

Among other Finno-Ugric peoples, the kuala cult has not 


been preserved to the same extent as among the Votiaks. Many 
of them do not even use the old building, although it bears a 
name common among all the tribes of these peoples. Remains 
of the kuala cult, have, however, been preserved among the 
Cheremiss, amongst whom we may still see, in some parts, in 
the background of the hut (kudo) a time-darkened case which 
these, like the Votiaks, regard as the dwelling of the kudo- 
spirit. Nowadays we see there, besides offerings, only dried 
birch leaves which are not even always renewed on the occasion 
of sacrificing. Most frequently, however, we no longer find 
a sacrifice case in a Cheremiss kudo, but in its former place, 
the corner shelf continues to be held sacred. No stranger is 
(* allowed to approach the sacrifice shelf, as the kudo-spirit 

(AWo-Vodyz) may take it amiss, nor does it befit women to 
approach it, and even the children are afraid of it and avoid 
it. In order to shield the sacred back part of the sanctuary 
from injurious contact, the Cheremiss in some parts of the 
country used to divide the house by a partition. 2 * In the Dis- 
trict of Urzhum I heard the back part called " the little kudo." 
At times only one or the other back-corner is separated by 
il means of a partition of boards. The " little kudo/* which is 

i reached from the " great " one through a small door, is, ac- 

f cording to the Cheremiss, more sacred than the other parts of 

I the building. Only grown up men may enter there, and not 

even these unnecessarily. In bygone days there were kept in 
"the little kudo" besides the sacrificial objects necessary at 
divine service, also arms and implements of the chase. Here 
were made, besides, their vows of sacrifice, by bringing in the 
firewood necessary when sacrificing in the forest, and the pan 
in which the victim was to be boiled. Where there is no 
longer any kudo, the sacrifice case is kept in the storehouse in 
the entrance to the bathhouse. 

The kudo-Vodyz, of the Cheremiss, when requiring sacrifice, 
also appears in human form in the dreams of the family mem- 
bers. The offering is then placed in the above named case, 


or on the sacred corner shelf. According to the earliest ac- 
counts, the Cheremiss slaughtered a black sheep for their god. 2JS 
Nowadays they bring for the most part only small sacrifices, 
such as hens and ducks, for occasional reasons, mostly on ac- 
count of a certain eye disease (trachoma) . At first the sacrificial 
vow is fulfilled in such manner that a little meal, some honey, 
and cakes or other eatables, are placed on the sacrifice shelf. 
The sacrifice itself is not executed until after the lapse of some 
time. Then the flour and honey used at the sacrificial vow 
are mixed into a dough, of which sacrificial bread is made for 
all the members of the family. In the sacrificial meal, which 
is prepared and consumed in the kudo, only members of the 
family partake, strangers not being allowed the tiniest bit. 
When beginning the meal, pieces of food are placed on the 
sacrifice shelf, near which the head of the family prays, asking 
for forgiveness on behalf of the sinner and on that of the 
whole family, should any one, unconsciously, in one way or 
another, have happened to offend the £«io-spirit, and implor- 
ing him to protect and keep the family and home. In some dis- 
tricts it is customary to offer up a sacrifice to him at a fixed time, 
in the autumn. The bones of the victim are not burnt, but 
buried in the earth under the building} a portion from every 
part of the body of the sheep used for this being placed on the 
sacrifice shelf. In the District of Urxhum a curious custom has 
been retained of taking the household god to one's neighbours, 
when the spirit, by sending an illness, seems to require a sacrifice. 
When not inclined to sacrifice to it, they say: " Do not require 
any thing of us, we have boiled the last already; we will take 
thee to our neighbour's} there is a silver-horned bull and a fine 
woolly sheep, there thou shalt have a treat." Thus speaking, 
the Cheremiss takes dust from the " kudo-spirit's " case and 
sets out for his neighbour's. If he is asked to take a seat there, 
and is offered bread and salt, all is well, as then " the spirit " 
has been kindly received. Unnoticed, the guest throws the 
dust from his hand into the corner and goes away without 


saying good-bye or asking his neighbour to come and see him. 
Also among the Hill Cheremiss, amongst whom one very rarely 
comes across a kudo, the belief has been preserved that the 
kudo-Vodyz, continues to live in the place of the former kudo, 
and that he who quarrels in the said place or besmirches it, will 
undoubtedly fall ill. 26 

After marriage, the Cheremiss woman still goes at first for 
some time to the kudo of her old home to sacrifice, should she 
meet with illness or any other misfortune declared by the sor- 
cerer to have been caused by the spirits of the " old place." 
Similarly the scattered younger families turn when necessary to 
the spirits of older kudo. Thus, the " little family " remains 
always dependent on the " great family " in some way or 

Georgi speaks also about a material image of the family god, 
stating that " in many houses, perhaps in every house, there is 
in a corner in a case, a coarse little doll of wood, dressed in 
male attire." When describing the wedding ceremonies of the 
Cheremiss, he further relates that " when everything is ready 
in the wedding house, the family god is placed on the table 
and the sacrificing priest (kart) of the village prays in front 
of it." Considering that the Cheremiss have not been in the 
habit of keeping the sacrifice case in the dwelling-house, there 
is reason to suppose that the family god mentioned by Georgi 
is the kudo-Vodyz™ 

A similar family cult doubtless existed among the Mordvins, 
and even among the Baltic Finns. Among the Esthonians, 
remains of it seem to have been preserved, through alien in- 
fluence, until modern times. The Vorsud case of the Votiaks 
corresponds, with them, to the " Tonni vakk " (vakk = 
"case"). On Tonni or Antony's-day (January seventeenth) 
one must brew beer or slaughter some animal — the latter 
being generally a sheep, though a bull is sometimes mentioned. 
At nightfall, the Tonni vakk was taken from its recess, candles 
were lighted on the rims of the case, and it was carried all 


round the dwelling house, the cattle sheds, and the yard. 
From each part of the carcase of the sacrificial animal a piece 
of meat was cut as a sacrifice to Tonni, and of the gravy a little 
was also sprinkled on the nearest paths. Lastly the people 
sat down to eat. 

Tonni's case, which had to be made by the sorcerer, was kept 
in a place known only by the master, generally in the attic of 
the storehouse. In this were placed all the year round, for one 
reason or another, various offerings: — when the corn was 
threshed, when beer was brewed, when milking a cow that had 
lately calved, when shearing the sheep, and when spinning yarn 
or weaving cloth. When slaughtering, they sacrificed meat, 
blood or fat. The case had to be particularly remembered on 
the occasion of illness among either human beings or animals. 
Falling ill was considered to be a consequence of the case hav- 
ing been damaged or of some one, when passing, having made 
a noise, or because the people had forgotten to sacrifice to it. 
There is a report even, that the case used to contain a doll-like 
image. That the Esthonians also had known both a lesser 
family spirit and a greater one, is shown by a tradition, accord- 
ing to which not only every family but also every village had its 
common sacrifice case." 

There are no reliable statements regarding the corresponding 
family worship of the Finns. Yet, in the social life of the 
Karelians there are indications that these belonged to two dif- 
ferent families, a smaller and a larger one, the chieftainship 
of the last named — where its head was not chosen by election 
— descending from a father to the eldest son of the eldest 
branch of the family. A result of the worship of the fore- 
fathers of the family was most' likely the alien position of the 
wife in her husband's home, for, as with the Votiaks, the women 
in Finnish Karelia kept their own family name even after 
their marriage." 


THERE is every reason to believe that those Lapp Seides, 
which were worshipped by a larger following, were dedi- 
cated to the spirit of some more famous man, the founder of a 
family, a shaman, etc. Such people were worshipped also 
among other Finno-Ugric peoples and the Samoyeds. Ven- 
iamin relates of the Yuraks that certain of their stone or 
wooden gods, the latter having a head coming to a point, were 
worshipped by a great tribe, spread over a wide area, others 
again by only -a very scant congregation. The former are 
generally situated in the neighbourhood of such places as the 
Yuraks are accustomed to gather at, to hunt or fish or to seek 
food for their reindeer. He mentions two such ancient sacred 
places, visited by great numbers, of which one was situated 
on the holy island Vajgats. At these meetings the Samoyeds 
sacrifice reindeer and dogs to their tutelary spirits, besmearing 
the mouths of the idols with the blood and fat of the sacrifice, 
and having eaten the flesh, hanging up the head, and even 
at times, the hide, on a holy tree. 1 Of later origin is possibly 
a custom of the Eastern Samoyeds of throwing pieces of the 
flesh of the sacrifice into the fire. Bloodless sacrifices are per- 
formed among the Ostiak Samoyeds. These sometimes do 
not slaughter the sacrificial deer, but content themselves with 
cutting out the face of the god or other strange figures on its 
back. After a ceremony of this description the animal is re- 
garded as holy, and may not be used for any purpose or 

The " sacred places "of the Yuraks are not fenced in, 
neither are buildings to be found on them, the idols standing al- 


ways under the open sky. 8 On the other hand, special buildings 
for their idols are met with among the Ostiak Samoyeds. A 
building of this kind, hidden away in the forest, is described 
by Donner in the following words: "As the dwelling-place 
of the gods they use here a building standing on four high 
supports, resembling greatly the average barns by the River 
Ob. In the fore-wall there was a little opening and against 
the back wall stood the god, made of wood and resembling 
a human being, together with his marital partner. The face 
was very clumsily carved, the eyes formed of two large blue 
glass-pearls, imparting a very quaint expression to the old 
man. The images were dressed in fine furs and had around 
them a number of weapons made of pewter with which to 
protect themselves j and, fashioned of the same material, 
swans, geese, snakes, reindeer and other animals, by the help 
of which they were supposed to be able to flee on the approach 
of an unconquerable enemy. Near the door was posted a 
little man dressed as a Russian policeman, holding a wooden 
sabre in one hand, while in the other he swung a great sword. 
The dwelling-place of the gods was furnished with gaudy 
cloths and expensive furs, and before the image of the ancestor 
the most varying objects lay on the floor, among other things 
a great deal of money, of which many coins were a couple of 
hundred years old. In the branches of the holy trees sur- 
rounding the building garments, horns of animals, hides, etc., 
were hung." * 

Similar spirits, bound to certain fixed places, are also pos- 
sessed by the Ostiaks and Voguls in great numbers. The 
mightiest of these are honoured by a great circle extended 
over a wide area, others again only by a small one, or merely 
by the population of a single village. " 'All places dedicated 
to idols," says Pallas, " the boundaries of which are exactly 
defined by rivers, brooks, or other marks, are spared by the 
Ostiaks, who neither cut down trees nor mow grass, neither 
hunt nor fish, abstaining even from drinking the water within 


their boundaries, for fear of offending the gods. Should they 
be obliged to traverse these waters by boat, they are careful 
not to approach too closely to the shores or to touch them 
with their oars, and if the way through them is very long, 
they supply themselves with water before reaching the 'holy 
place, as they would sooner suffer the worst tortures from 
thirst than drink of the holy water." s These holy places, 
however, have not definite boundaries, still less are they fenced 
in, but especially in the southern districts there is a little build- 
ing resembling a storehouse, intended for the preservation of 
offerings and the images. Like their house gods, the spirits 
living at fixed holy places of the Ostiaks and Voguls have all 
been materialised into images. Most often they have been 
shaped as wooden figures resembling human beings, at times 
as rag-dolls made out of stuffed sacks or natural stones; fur- 
ther, they have also been formed of bronze, copper, lead, or 
even of bones. As assistants these have often images resem- 
bling various animals. The storehouses for offerings are gen- 
erally under the care of a special person, who then also 
carries out the sacrificial ceremonies and receives the offerings, 
money, skins, etc. Very often this occupation is hereditary in 
the same family. 8 

That these powerful and dreaded spirits, regarded as being 
able to visit people with sickness, were originally human, 
has not been forgotten by the people. A part of them are said 
to have been former rulers or heroes, whose mighty deeds 
are extolled in songs, others are expressly said to be the 
founders of the clans. Those again that are furnished with 
images of animals were probably famous shamans. An example 
of how a powerful spirit is believed to develop out of a man 
of mark after death is given by an Ostiak folk-poem, in 
which a Vasyugan hero displays an uncommon nobility of 
character by burying the body of a dead enemy-hero, erecting 
his sword on the grave, and consoling him by saying: " In 
the times of coming daughters, in the times of coming sons, 


thou be called to life, and thou shalt become an offering- 
spirit accepting offerings," ' 

At times one may see many images in the same offering- 
house. Two hundred years ago, Novitskiy visited a " great " 
god-house, containing five wooden images resembling human 
beings wrapped round with " clothes." Around this chief 
building were smaller square store-rooms on posts about the 
height of a man; in these were preserved the objects used at 
the slaughter of a sacrifice} axes, knives, etc. Separated from 
these was another little store-room filled with bones.* 

The sacrifices of the Ostiaks and Voguls, which may be 
either annual or occasional, do not materially differ from the 
corresponding uses of the Samoyeds. According to the oldest 
sources, the mouths of the images were besmeared with blood 
and fat, and the hides of the animals, with horns and hoofs 
attached, hung up in trees. The use of fire as a means of 
transmitting the (offerings, met with also among the Ostiak 
Samoyeds, is most probably of later origin. Like these last 
mentioned, the more Eastern Ostiaks have the custom of occa- 
sionally offering up so-called bloodless sacrifices, that is to 
say, sacrifices in which the animal is not killed, its " soul " 
only being made over to the god. Even children may thus 
be consecrated to some spirit^ the child" thus consecrated has 
to fulfil certain duties during his lifetime, as, for example, 
to marry a wife, or a husband, from the direction of the com- 
pass in which the spirit dwells." 

The worshipping of heroes among the Siryans, at the pres- 
ent time totally forgotten by them, is described in the Life of 
St. Stephen (d. 1396) in the following words: "In Perm 
many kinds of idols were to be found: some large, some small, 
others again, of medium size; some were famous and very 
fine, others were legion - 7 a part were worshipped only by 
few and were shown little honour, but others again were wor- 
shipped by people dwelling far and wide. They have certain 
idols to whom they travel long distances, bringing them gifts 


from afar, even from districts three or four days' or a week's 
journey away." 1 

The brother-tribe of the Siryans, the Votiaks, have even 
today forest copses, consecrated to their ancient heroes, and 
called lad by them. In earlier times these holy places were 
hidden in the forests. The oldest authors to mention the 
Votiaks say that these lud were generally in forests of fir. 11 
Nowadays, as the forests in East Russia have diminished to a 
very great degree, having even become quite scarce in some 
districts, these consecrated groves have become visible, standing 
out on the open plains as memorials of the former forests. 
Thus, in the vicinity of the pagan Votiak villages flourish 
luxurious sacrificial groves, the tall trees of which have been 
held sacred from generation to generation. 

Wherever these lud may happen to be, in the forests or 
open plains, they are always fenced in. In this respect they 
differ from the holy places of the Samoyeds and the other 
northern peoples. But common to them all is the super- 
stitious fear felt by the people for them. The Votiaks have 
nothing else that they hold so sacred as these lud. No one 
enters them without due reason, not even on holy days, with- 
out taking an offering there. Cattle may not enter them, 
branches may not be broken off, not even a stick may be 
taken awayj all disturbance is forbidden, and game seeking 
shelter there may not be shot at by the hunters. Women and 
children avoid them altogether; in passing them they turn 
their heads aside, still less would they ever set foot in them. 
Neither may a stranger enter the sacred area. The spirit, 
when angered, vents its wrath relentlessly by causing a severe 
sickness. Most fear-inspiring, however, is the lud in the 

The fence surrounding the sacred grove is either of sticks 
or boards, or sometimes of plaited branches. As in appear- 
ance, so also in height, do they vary in the different districts. 
A little gate of boards, swinging on wooden hinges, generally 


leads to the sanctuary, being open only during the performance 
of sacrifices. The direction of these gates varies so much that 
it is impossible to conclude that they have been placed to point 
to any special point of the compass. Wichmann saw in the 
Elabuga District (Bussurman Mozhga) a lud that was divided 
into two by a fence; into the inner part only the guardian of 
the lud and his assistants were allowed to enter. In this part 
was the fireplace and a table for the flesh of the sacrifice. 
In the front part, to which the congregation also were ad- 
mitted, there was a table for the mutual meal. 12 

In most of the lud which the author was able to see during 
his travels, there was, with the exception of the fence, nothing 
that might specially draw attention to it. Only in a few 
sanctuaries was there a rotted bench, a moss-grown stool, or 
a narrow table, used by the Votiaks as an altar on which to 
offer up their sacrifices. The offering-table is often placed at 
the foot of some thick, centuries-old tree, under which the 
sacrificing priest reads out his prayers. It would appear that 
the sacrificial ceremonies of the Votiaks were particularly 
centred round some old tree. Of this, Buch relates also, from 
the Sarapul District, that in the centre of the lud there was 
an old tree, the lower branches of which were lopped away to 
allow of a freer approach. 13 

In the larger and much visited groves there was also a 
store-like building, without a fireplace, called the lud~kuala 
by the Votiaks." One of these the author saw in the Mama- 
dysh District. It was a small hut, unfitted for a dwelling- 
place, with a roof sloping backwards, and a small door, which, 
like the gate of the grove, opened towards the west, that is 
to say, towards the village. Nothing was to be seen in the hut, 
except a shelf of board in the right-hand back corner. The 
fireplace was outside the building, between it and the gate. 
The old inhabitants relate that the kuala was not as empty in 
earlier times as it was then, but was used as a store-place for 
offerings, sacrificial vessels, towels, coins, etc. 


The Votiaks worship in families at the lud; the members of 
one family never come to worship in the lud of another 
family. Should several /W-families live in the same village, 
just as many groves will be found in its vicinity. A grove in 
which a great clan, i.e., many villages, gathers for a mutual 
sacrifice, is called a u great lud." Every lud has its separate 
" guardian," the post passing down from father to son. Only 
when a " guardian " is childless, is another member of the 
family or clan chosen at a meeting of its members to be a 
sacrificing priest. Sometimes, the magician {tuna) chooses a 
guardian for the sacred grove. 

The guardian has no special ceremonial dress at the sacrifices, 
but it is demanded of him that his apparel shall be neat and 
clean. Where possible, he must wear a white coat, on his 
head a white hat, and white wrappings round his feet, and new 
bark-shoes. Cleanliness is also demanded of the congrega- 
tion visiting the grove. No one is allowed to enter who has 
not bathed beforehand. 

The Votiaks make a lud for themselves for many different 
reasons. They begin to worship the lud spirit, for example, 
in the hope of being delivered from some serious illness, or, 
again, they build a fence round a grove, the spirit of which 
has revealed itself in a dream, giving the exact situation of 
the same. It is the duty of the dreamer to set out at once to 
fence in the place shown him in his dream. When the Votiaks 
move as settlers to a new neighbourhood, too far away for the 
old lud to be conveniently visited, they prepare a new one 
for themselves. This may not be done in any place without 
calling upon the services of the magician, who bestrides a 
young foal that has never been ridden before, and rides with- 
out a bit or reins into the forest. The place where the foal 
stops is the site of the grove. The Votiaks, however, take care 
that the grove is not situated too far from the village. 18 

Sacrifices are not offered up in a new sacred grove until the 
" spirit " has been brought from the old place. The " bring- 


ing of the spirit " is carried out in the same manner as the 
mWor-wedding. The Eastern Votiaks relate that their fore- 
fathers, for the inauguration of sacred groves in strange neigh- 
bourhoods, brought with them ashes from the grove of their 
native village. In the same manner Bogayevskiy says of the 
Sarapul District, that when the tuno has decided on a site for 
a new grove, the sanctuary is removed there with solemn 
ceremonies, in which the most important act is the bringing 
over of ashes from the old place to be placed on the site of 
the fireplace of the new." 

As soon as the lud has been inaugurated for its mission, it 
becomes a sanctuary in which yearly sacrifices must be offered 
up. This is not only the sacred duty of the founder, but of all 
his descendants. Miropolskiy says that though the Russians 
may have laid waste a lud } the Votiaks continue to worship 
the spirit at the site of the former grove. 17 Anyone omitting 
the proscribed sacrifices is sure to be punished severely by the 
lud-spirit, who is regarded by the Votiaks as stern and exacting. 

Doubtless, the Votiaks formerly had images within their 
sacred groves, although we can no longer determine the ap- 
pearance of these. The difficulty, for a child of nature, of 
grasping the idea of a spiritual being when he has nothing 
material to lay hold of, is^shown by a fable of the Votiaks 
in which it is told how they were at one time so crushed be- 
neath material adversities that the duty of sacrificing lay too 
heavily upon them and they decided to abolish this rite. A 
Tatar offered to take away the lud-spirit by collecting all the 
objects gathered together as offerings in the grove. The 
hopes of the Votiaks were, however, dashed again by then- 
being continuously punished by the spirit. The people be- 
lieved this to be due to the fact that the Tatar had not taken 
the offerings far enough away, but had cast them on to the 
village fields. 1 * 

Besides occasional offerings, annual sacrifices are offered up 
by the Votiaks in the lud. The annual sacrifices appear to 


have been made chiefly in the summer before hay-making 
time, and in the autumn after the conclusion of work in the 
fields. The ceremony itself was performed, according to the 
most ancient custom, in the evening. Occasional offerings are 
made by the Votiaks after every misfortune, especially during 
a severe illness, said by the magician (tuno) to be a sign that 
the /«^-spirit demands a sacrifice. It is the magician's duty to 
find out what the spirit wishes as a sacrifice on the varying 
occasions. To begin with, however, a promise of sacrifice is 
regarded as sufficient. Thus, a few copper coins are bound 
up in a rag, with the words : " With this money, lud~spirit, I 
buy thee a horse, let the sick not lose his life." Silver coins 
are then placed in the rag, with the words: "With silver I 
deck the mane of thy horse." Further, a little meal is strewn 
there, with the words added: " Besides which I will bake thee a 
loaf, if thou wilt give health to the sick." The rag bundle is 
then hung up in some secret place. Should the sickness not 
improve after this, it is regarded as a sign that the spirit wishes 
the actual sacrifice immediately. 10 

This promise to the lud-spirit is often made by the guardian, 
who, as soon as he is informed of the matter, goes out into his 
yard or even into the sanctuary with a loaf of bread or a dish 
of porridge in his hand, praying in the name of the sick per- 
son, that the lud-spirit may be appeased and wait until the 
sick person is himself in a condition to offer up his sacrifice. 
Sometimes, the promise is again " renewed " before the actual 
sacrifice. When the /^-guardian prays in his own yard, he 
keeps his face always turned in the direction in which the 
sanctuary is situated. 

The day on which an annual sacrifice is to be performed, 
is determined by the lud-i amily or W-clan. Before the cere- 
mony, the participants must all cleanse themselves and put on 
clean apparel. To the preparations belong also the collecting 
of sacrifice-money by cutting the family-mark of each family 
on a stick, the marked lines indicating the amount given.* 


The lud-spirk always demanding blood-offerings, a foal is 
generally used as the victim, but also, at times, a black sheep. 

After the conclusion of all these preparations, the actual 
ceremony is begun. Only the older males go into the sanc- 
tuary, carrying with them the vessels, cauldrons, dishes, pro- 
visions, and the sacrificial animal. When the crowd arrives 
at the gate of the sanctuary, they greet the spirit by taking off 
their head-dress, the guardian himself opening the door and, 
as the leading person, going first into the grove, the others 
following silently after. As a beginning fire must be made on 
the site of the old fires, fallen trees, stumps, or fallen branches 
being used for fuel. Towels for the wiping of hands are 
brought with them also and hung up in the branches of the 
tree. On the altar-table, decked with green boughs and 
white cloths, the accompanying loaves and pancakes are piled 
up. When the number of worshippers is very great, the food- 
offerings are placed on the ground, a white cloth being laid 
under the wooden bowl of each family. 

Before commencing the sacrifice it must be ascertained 
whether the lud-sp'mt will accept the offering. This is done 
by pouring fresh spring-water by means of a bundle of twigs, 
over the sacrificial animal, which must be flawless and of one 
colour. This ceremony is repeated several times, the lud- 
guardian reading softly a prayer the while, until the animal 
shivers, which, according to the Votiaks, Chuvashes and Chere- 
miss, is a sign that the sacrifice is pleasing to the god. 

After the " sign " the sacrificing priests begin the slaughter- 
ing. Its feet having been bound together, the animal is 
turned over on to its left side and the blood allowed to run 
dry from the veins in its throat without any previous stunning 
of the victim. A few drops of the warm blood are thrown 
by means of the sacrifice ladle into the fire. During the 
slaughtering, the /W-guardian reads out a prayer, holding the 
sacrificial bread in his hand. As soon as the animal has been 
killed, the hide is flayed from it and the carcase divided in a 


particular way. The chief organs of the body, the heart, 
lungs, liver, etc., are cooked separately and when prepared 
are set in a special dish. Later, two small fragments are cut 
from each quarter of the carcase, from the tongue, lungs, 
heart, liver, etc., one of which is placed in a dish on the table, 
the other thrown into the fire. During an earlier period, the 
pieces now set on the altar-table were hung up in the tree 
itself, and in some places it is still said to be usual to thread 
them on to a little twig, to the end of which a strip of lime- 
bark is bound, probably for hanging up in the tree. 21 As 
other peoples also, including the Lapps, have been in the 
habit of cutting small slices from the most important organs of 
the sacrificed animal, which were then threaded on to a pole 
and fastened to the holy tree, it is apparent that this must 
have been an ancient Finno-Ugric custom. 

In sanctuaries possessing a building, the offerings are placed 
on the corner shelf. This is quite to be expected, for if the 
//^-spirits, as may be supposed, were at one time materialised 
in the form of images, they were certainly situated in the 
lud-kuala, together with the offering vessels and the money. 
This is further pointed to by the fact that the Votiaks regard 
the lud-kuala as being so sacred, that only the /«J-guardian 
may enter it. 

From the Life of St. Stephen we may obtain a graphic view 
oi the ancient lud-kuala sacrifices. Incidentally, the image- 
house of the Siryans is mentioned, which was also watched over 
by a special " guardian." The actual appearance of the build- 
ing is not described; it is only stated that within were images, 
sacrificing tables and a great amount of valuables. The saint 
is praised for the fact, that out of all that was hung up round 
the gods, either as clothing for them, or for their bedecking 
themselves, or merely as gifts of sacrifice — skins of sable, 
ermine, skunk, beaver, fox, bear, lynx, and squirrel — all these 
he gathered together into a pile, and burnt them, smote the 
images with an axe on their foreheads and hewed them into 


small pieces, throwing these on the fire, and burning up every- 
thing together, the pile with the skins and the images at the 
same time. This caused great surprise among the Siryans, who 
said: " Why did he not take all this as booty for himself? " 
In another place we read: "In the same manner he forbade 
his disciples to take away anything from the houses of the idols, 
neither gold, silver, copper, iron, pewter, nor any of the objects 
mentioned earlier." a! 

When the /W-spirit has received his share of the sacrifice, 
the food is divided according to the number of families taking 
part in the sacrifice. Following a very old custom, the whole 
of the food must be consumed within the sanctuary and at the 
same time. The hide and the larger bones are, following an- 
other old custom, hung up in the holy tree. 23 Nowadays, hides 
are not seen in the groves of the Votiaks, as not even the fact 
of their being cut into pieces has been able to protect them from 
thieves. On the other hand, one can see among the Eastern 
Votiaks whole skeletons of animals hung up with ropes of 
bark on the tree. The extreme care with which the flesh of 
the sacrifice is carved by the Votiaks, who avoid fracturing any 
bone whatever, and the care with which they join these together 
in their natural order, appear to be a result of a belief, said by 
Bechterev to be prevalent among them, that the sacrificed 
animal does not die, but passes living to the lud-spmt. 24 ' 

A noticeable feature in the lud worship of the Votiaks is, 
further, the use of wax candles, not found among the more 
northern peoples. These candles are often prepared first in the 
grove, where the wax obtained in bee-keeping is kneaded be- 
tween the hands round strands of flax. 

After the meal, the congregation form up in long rows 
while the W-guardian prays in a low voice. According to the 
oldest custom the prayers, like the slaughtering also, should be 
read with the face turned to the west or the north. The con- 
tents of the prayer vary in different districts, depending chiefly 
on the accidental needs of the sacrificers. The lud-spirit is first 


asked to protect human beings and animals against sickness and 
all other evils, and the fields from hail and storms, etc. After 
each prayer, read by the guardian, the kneeling congregation 
touch the ground with their foreheads. Sometimes the minds 
of the worshippers are uplifted by the tones of stringed in- 
struments. While the people are leaving the sanctuary, they 
bow low to the lud and say: " Live happily and protect us." * B 
At times the festival is prolonged in the village at the house of 
the " guardian," where the men and women of the village 
gather, and where feast-songs are sung in these words: " The 
/W-spirit has wished us peace and given his blessing." The 
festival may even be prolonged for two or three days. 28 

What the origin of this /«i-spirit was, the Votiaks themselves 
do not always know. Many features of the ceremony point, 
however, to the worship of the dead. Such features are, e.g., 
the fact that the /«J-spirit, often called the " ruler " or " lord " 
(lud-kuzo, lud~asaba) or merely lud t appears in dreams in hu- 
man shape, that he is fixed to a certain place, and that he is 
worshipped by families and is sacrificed to in the evenings with 
the face turned to the west or the north. The black sacrificial 
animals are also a sign pointing to the worship of the deceased. 

As Georgi already relates, the Votiaks sometimes worship in 
their lud a spirit called Suit on (= Arabo-Turkish Sultan).* 1 
The same epithet is applied by the Chuvashes to a spirit dwell- 
ing in their sanctuaries, which is called by them kir'dmat (?an 
Arabo-Turkish word meaning "holy"). To Turco-Tatar 
influence points also the belief of the Votiaks that the lud, 
when desiring a sacrifice, appears in dreams in the guise of a 
Tatar. The lud sacrifices of the Votiaks are, however, not 
entirely of foreign origin, for signs that these also worshipped 
their ancestors and heroes are not wanting even in our day. 
As an example may be mentioned that in Bussurman-Mozhga 
(Elabuga District) eleven villages celebrate the memory of the 
founder of their line, Mardan. The brave Mardan had in 
bygone times come from the north and chosen this village as 



his dwelling-place. Every third year they sacrifice a horse to 
him and a cow to his wife, and annually, in addition, a sheep is 
sacrificed. The words of thanksgiving uttered during the sacri- 
fice to Mardan, are as follows: "Together we sacrifice a horse 
to thee. For the fine children and the fine harvest thou hast 
given us, we thank thee, Father Mardan." 2S 

Further light is thrown upon the lud cult of the Votiaks by 
the corresponding sacrificial cult of the Cheremiss. Like the 
Chuvashes, the Cheremiss call their fenced-in sanctuaries 
keremet. Contrary to their attitude towards the groves of the 
Nature gods, in which they say sacrifices are made " upward," 
or " towards the sun," sacrifices are here made " downward," 
or " towards the night." The Cheremiss display great dread of 
the groves of the " lower spirits," in which, where possible, 
coniferous trees must grow. A peculiar feature is that in the 
keremet no foreign tongue may be spoken, as the spirit dwelling 
there "hates foreign tongues." They often give to their 
sanctuaries names such as " the keremet of our clan." The 
same person may, however, belong to two different keremet- 
clans. In such cases, the keremet groves are generally con- 
secrated to different spirits. At Kurmanaeva (Birsk District) 
there is a so-called Sultzn-keremet, in the sacrifices of which 
the people of about twenty-five villages take part. Some vil- 
lages have no keremet at all, while in some places a keremet 
may belong to a few separate families only. In the Urzhum 
District, where this cult has better preserved its original fea- 
tures than among the Eastern Cheremiss, one may see several 
sacrifice-trees in the same gloomy fir forest, by each of which 
the different families offer up their sacrifices. 

Where there is only one keremet in a village this is generally 
called after the village. At times, the keremet may be called 
after its founder, or after the place in which it is situated. 
Every clan takes care of its sanctuary, where the collective 
sacrifices are offered up by a member of the clan chosen for 
the purpose, but where any single member also may make offer- 


ings on his own account. The Cheremiss make their offerings 
late in the evenings, as after a sacrifice one may neither go out 
to visit anyone, nor receive visitors. On the way to the grove, 
one must, as far as possible, avoid meeting people. The most 
usual sacrifice nowadays is a foal or a black sheep, but earlier 
it was very often a black bull. 

Like the Votiaks, the Cheremiss at times make only a 
promise of sacrifice. The usual method is that money, flour, 
honey, or a little loaf prepared specially for the occasion, are 
placed in a little bundle, and the worshipper prays to the 
keremet-spirit to be appeased and to soothe the agony of the 
sick; binding himself to carry out the offering on a suitable 
occasion. The bundle may be hung up either at home on the 
wall of the storeroom, or in the keremet on the branches of the 
sacrifice-tree} when the promise is redeemed, the bundle is 
burned up. Often the promise is accompanied by the hang- 
ing-up of the garments of the sick, or the thrusting in of 
some iron implement, an axe, a sickle, or a knife in the wall 
of the storeroom, from which they are removed after the 
promised animal has been sacrificed. When the Cheremiss 
promise a sheep or a bull, they take a little wool or hair from 
the promised animal into the grove. If a horse has been 
promised, they prepare harness of bark, and hang this on the 
sacrifice tree as a guarantee to the spirit. At the same time 
a few sticks of wood are piled against the tree, Some who 
make promises of sacrifice hang up a wax candle with the 
objects already mentioned. The promised sacrifice is 
slaughtered, like the others, in the evening, as " should anyone 
meet the sacrificer, he would immediately fall ill." By 
means of all the objects that follow the making of a promise 
of sacrifice, the Cheremiss attempt to assure the spirit that he 
need not wait very long for the redemption of the promise. 2 " 

Where a poorer Cheremiss cannot in due time fulfil his 
promise of sacrifice, he must " renew " the promise by sacri- 
ficing some lesser object. Very usual is the sacrificing of a 


goose, a duck, or a hare, in the place of a horse. In the Birsk 
District the author had the opportunity of seeing how the 
population of a village offered up a smaller sacrifice to the 
keremet on account of a cattle-plague. Into the sanctuary 
only the sacrificing priest and three assistants entered. These 
had first to take a bath and clothe themselves in clean garments. 
Immediately when they had arrived at the grove, the assist- 
ants made a fire, using for this purpose glowing cinders brought 
in a pan from the village. Sacrifice bread was kneaded on 
the spot and baked on a wooden fork over this fire. When 
the loaf, on which two " noses " had been impressed by three 
fingers held together, was ready, it was placed at the root of 
the sacrifice tree. The candles were then made and placed in 
hollows in the bark of the tree. The actual sacrifice, a duck, 
lay with feet bound together near the tree. Swinging a burn- 
ing branch and striking the knife against the blade of the axe, 
the " priests " prayed side by side, while the others killed 
/The duck by cutting its throat. The sacrificing priest poured 
a little of the warm blood into the fire, imploring the keremet 
to accept the sacrifice, free the cattle from the plague, and 
wait until the autumn for the promised horse. When the 
flesh oi the duck was cooked the sacrificing priest carried it 
to the tree, where he cut off small pieces of the heart, liver, 
windpipe, neck, breast, back, wings and feet into two bowls, 
the contents of one being given through the fire to the kere- 
met > of the other to the medium of the sacrifice, " the Fire- 
mother." In each bowl was also laid one of the cut-off 
" noses " of the sacrifice bread. Before this ceremony, more 
prayers had been read before the tree, accompanied by the 
swinging of torches and the clang of the knife against the 
axe. After the sacrifice of the contents of the bowls, the rest 
of the meat was eaten ; the remnants were thrown into the fire. 
At the sacrifices, one hears the Cheremiss in the Urzhum 
District refer to the kereme t-spirit as the "Old man," the 
" Great man," or the " Prince." The best known is a spirit 


called the " Old Man of the Hill " or as he is also called, 
after his dwelling-place, Nemda, " the Old man of the Nemda 
Hill " or " the Prince of the Nemda Hill." Of this worship, 
Olearius relates in the first half of the seventeenth century 
that the Cheremiss made pilgrimages to the Nemda brook 
and sacrificed there. This holy place, he says, is feared greatly 
by them : " Any one going there without an offering, perishes, 
as the devil is believed to have his habitation there." 30 

The sacred place mentioned by Olearius, situated in the District, is spoken of also in certain accounts dating 
from the former half of the last century. As the Russian 
priests exerted much pressure on the Cheremiss at that time 
on account of their pagan religion, they knew that these were 
in the habit of making sacrifices at a stone, lying on the bank 
of the Nemda near the village Tshembulatova, and, therefore, 
they destroyed the stone. The spirit worshipped by the Chere- 
miss at the stone, was called by them Tshembulat, from which 
the village had derived its name. 

Nowadays the people no longer gather at the actual dwell- 
ing-place of this spirit, but have prepared groves in his name 
at different places. Thus, the same spirit may be worshipped 
in the groves of many villages. In the neighbourhoods where 
tales of the " Nemda Old man " have been best preserved, 
it is said that he lived by the Nemda brook over which a 
" bridge " led. Besides a wife he had also officials: a " book- 
keeper," an " interpreter," a " guardian of the gate," and a 
" bridge man," whose office it was to watch over the bridge. 
To each of these it was usual to make a separate offering, a 
horse to the Prince himself, a cow to his wife, and to the 
others some smaller animal. 

Many tales go to prove that this " great man " was a former 
Cheremiss chief. He is said to have ridden a white stallion 
and fought against enemies: " When he finally succeeded 
in re-establishing peace on earth, he called together the Chere- 
miss to a stone, and proclaimed the peace to them. He then 


lifted up the stone, and placed himself under it, saying to his 
people: * Should war break out again, some one must bestride 
a white stallion, and ride three times round the stone, shout- 
ing : " Arise, Chief, there is war on the earth ! M ' A Cheremiss 
did this once out of curiosity, shouted out the necessary words, 
and immediately the chief arose;, sat himself on his horse and 
rode out to the east and west, to the north and the south, 
but nowhere could he see signs of war. Then, calling the 
Cheremiss together again, he said; ( As you have fooled me 
and called me without cause, you are hereafter my slaves, 
and must sacrifice a foal to me annually.' " 

In some districts he is called " the Northern Ruler " and 
is said to have command over an invisible army. When sick- 
ness is rife among the cattle, the people say: " The Northern 
Ruler has sent his warriors to cut down our cattle." Even 
now he is said to ride through the land of the Cheremiss at 
times, to see how these are progressing. Should anyone meet 
him without knowing who he is, and thus not get out of his 
way, an immediate illness is the result, and a horse must be 
sacrificed to the spirit. The people even speak of his green 
cloak and his red head-dress. He is specially sacrificed to in 
times oi war. 

Besides the widely-known and everywhere highly respected 
" Nemda Prince " the Cheremiss have other local keremet- 
spirits, the fame of which is not so widely spread. The ma- 
jority of these have become the objects of worship through 
their heroic deeds. The Cheremiss remember their feats even 
today. There are many local heroes, especially in the old 
dwelling-places of the people. Thus, they make offerings to 
" the Old man of the castle-hill " and to the " Hero Aren," 
who fought against the Tatars, but met his death before a 
gate, ever afterwards called the " Hero gate." At his death 
the hero said: " Remember me, give me a good horse with me 
in the grave, and continue the war by slinging stones! " The 
Cheremiss did as their leader had advised. The stones, di- 


reeled by the dead hero himself through the air, whistled in 
a peculiar manner and destroyed the enemy. On the place 
where the hero had died, a keremet was established, in which 
the Cheremiss sacrifice a foal in cases of sickness, even today. 
A strange inherited custom is connected with this sacrifice as 
a memory of those times of war: a stone is cast in the air in 
the name of the sick person, and by the whining sound it 
makes, the possibilities of recovery are made known. 

Together with their own heroes, who " hate foreign 
tongues," the Cheremiss, like the Votiaks, sacrifice to a spirit 
called Sultan. The last named has his own special sanctuaries, 
as according to the people's view, he cannot be worshipped in 
the same place as a Cheremiss chief. This may be a relic 
from the period of power of the Bolgars, when the independ- 
ence of the Cheremiss first began to waver. In any case the 
keremet cult already described, corresponding with the lud- 
sacrifices of the Votiaks, proves that the Finnish stocks on the 
Volga have had their own princes at one time in history, the 
memory of whom they have been able to preserve through 
the centuries. 

Under the alien name of keremet the Mordvins also wor- 
shipped their heroes and the dwelling-places of these. Their 
keremet also seems to have been a fenced-in forest-grove. 
Even sacrifice store-houses {kudo) and probably also images 
were kept by them in their sacred places. 81 

That the Mordvins, like the Votiaks and Cheremiss, sacri- 
ficed also to the spirits of alien rulers, is shown by the name 
mentioned earlier, Soltan, or Salhta. The hero cult of the 
Mordvins is further described by Paasonen as follows: 
" Among the Erza in the Kazan and Samara Governments, 
we find a deity called Staka Pas (" the heavy god "), who is 
honoured with special sacrifices, and entreated not to launch 
" his heaviness " (evil generally) upon the people. In some 
parts, a divine couple, popularly supposed to be husband and 
wife, and bearing many names — e.g., Onto and Bonto — 


are invoked by the epithet of Staka Pas, while elsewhere the 
" heavy god " is addressed in sacrificial prayers as Kan Pas, 
Kuvan Pas, and regarded as living " in the black earth." 
The word Kan, the signification of which is now unknown to 
the people themselves, is simply the Tatar Kan (" prince "), 
so that Kan Pas means "god-prince "j Kuvan again is most 
probably derived from the Turkish title kagan, which in Chu- 
vash or Bolgar would be pronounced kugan, and in Mordvin 
may easily have become kuvan. The Mordvins having been 
at one time under the rule of the Volga Bolgars, of whom the 
present day Chuvash are a descendant people, it is quite prob- 
able that " the heavy god " was originally the spirit of some 
Turkish ruler. Similarly, the other heavy gods, Onto and 
Bonto, etc., are perhaps the rulers of an earlier age. 82 

Of a corresponding sacrificial cult among the Baltic Finns 
we have no reliable information. We need not doubt, how- 
ever, that they also had their heroes whom they worshipped. 
The Esthonians and the Finns have preserved a common name 
hiisi, which originally meant " forest " but later also " sacri- 
ficial grove." Hiisi, as the spirit dwelling within these was 
also called, is generally regarded as an evil spirit, like the lud 
of the Votiaks. An old tale has been recorded in Esthonia, 
according to which the " Thunder god " thrived best in a 
forest of leaf-trees, but Hiisi best among coniferous trees. 
Here the same difference is made between the worship of 
the Nature god and the underground spirits, as the Cheremiss 
observe today. The old folk-traditions relate further, that 
groves of this description among the Baltic Finns were fenced 
in. That they even possessed sacrifice buildings in their sanc- 
tuaries, is shown by the Papal Bull of Pope Gregory IX in 
the year 1229, in which he allows Bishop Thomas to accept 
the sacrificial groves and image-houses (Ittcos et delubra), 
presented to him by the converted heathen." 

Doubtless also among the ancient heroes of Finnish song 
were many who at one time were worshipped. 


THE anthropomorphic household spirit of many Euro- 
pean peoples was unknown to the forefathers of the 
Finno-Ugric race. Even now it is rare or unknown among the 
Ostiaks and Voguls. A later spirit is the Russian Lapland 
Kyode jielle ("the One who dwells in the tent") or Port 
hozjin ("Household ruler"). Of this latter, it is related 
that he lives under the fireplace, and may sometimes appear 
in the shape of a dog. To appease him the Lapps offer up 
sacrifices to him and are glad when he leaves the house. By 
the fireside where he dwells, there is a spot where women are 
afraid to go or to step over. This household spirit is without 
doubt borrowed from the Russians (horzjin= Russian hoz- 
yain). Through the Finns, the Lapps have made the ac- 
quaintance of the Tonto (Finnish Tonttu = Swedish Tomte). * 
The spirit dwelling in the house is called by the Votiaks 
Korka-murt (" House man ") or Korka-kuzo (" House 
ruler "). His chief dwelling-place is under the floor, for which 
reason he is sometimes called "the Ruler dwelling under 
the floor." As may be concluded already from the word murt 
(" man ") this spirit has the outward form of a man. The 
" House man " shows himself very seldom; when this happens, 
it is a forewarning of death or other misfortunes. When he 
does appear he resembles sometimes the master of the house. 
Generally speaking, he is a kindly and useful spirit, pro- 
tecting the inhabitants of the house from strange spirits and in 
every way looking after the interests of the house. He may 
even at times take part in the household duties. The Votiaks 


relate that he sometimes spins in the night, if for some reason 
or other, the womenfolk have been hindered from finishing 
their day's task. When the " House man " is given cause 
for anger, he annoys sleepers in the form of the nightmare, 
tangles hair and beards in the night, and hinders the success- 
ful conclusion of tasks. Little children are never left alone in 
the house, as it is believed that the " House man " can substitute 
changelings for them. 2 

Whenever the " House man " in one way or another shows 
signs of being offended, he must be appeased by sacrifices. 
The sacrifice, which with the Votiaks generally takes the form 
of a black sheep, must be killed under the floor, where the 
spirit dwells. In the ceremony, in which the master of the 
house plays the part of the sacrificing priest, only members of 
the family may take part, as the flesh of a sacrifice may not 
be offered to strangers. Pieces of the meat and the bones 
of the sacrificed animal are buried in a hole dug under the 
floor, into which the victim's blood is also allowed to run 
during the slaughtering. The flesh of the sacrifice is cooked 
and eaten, as a rule, in the house itself. Besides occasional 
offerings, regular sacrifices are made at certain times to the 
"House man." Usually, the Votiaks sacrifice to him in the 
autumn, after the conclusion of agricultural work, a goose or 
duck and also porridge; the bones of the bird together with 
the porridge and a spoon are placed under the floor. The 
person carrying out the sacrifice reads out the following prayer: 
" Thus do I sacrifice to Thee, O Spirit dwelling under the 
floor, a goose. Do not frighten us. Be pleased to accept the 
sacrifice offered. Give to me and my family and dependants 
peace and happiness." In some places offerings are also made 
during the summer, at the time when the sheep are driven in 
to be clipped. Where a suitable victim is not to be found in 
the flock, the ceremony is postponed to a later date, and at 
the time a promise only is given along with the porridge, 
part of which must be buried under the floor. 3 


Above all, the Votiaks regard it as a duty to sacrifice to the 
" House man " when they first establish themselves in a new 
house. We find Georgt already relating that the Votiaks, on 
moving into a new house, sacrifice a black sheep.* The re- 
moval into a new house has in certain Votiak territory acquired 
a festival character — the "house-wedding" (korka-suan). 
All the relatives and friends gather in the house, bringing 
gifts. The most important ceremony is the killing of the 
sacrifice under the floor of the new dwelling. In the Sarapul 
District it is the custom for the master of the house, accom- 
panied by his wife, to step under the floor, bearing pancakes 
and home-distilled spirits and a young fir about a yard high, 
and there deliver a promise of sacrifice. The master of the 
house sets up the green fir tree in a corner, takes a branch of 
the tree in his hand and kneels down beside it. His wife 
spreads a tablecloth before him on which she places a pancake. 
She then pours spirits into a goblet and offers it to her hus- 
band. The latter, with the goblet in his right hand and the 
branch in his left, reads out a prayer, in which he prays that 
the dwelling now completed may be comfortable to live in 
even until old age and death, and he promises to sacrifice 
a black sheep. After the prayer he drinks up the spirits and 
tastes also of the pancake. The promised sacrifice is made 
later. While its flesh is being cooked, the master of the 
house prays on his knees for happiness, riches, and everything 
that is good for the new home, pointing out that he is now 
fulfilling the promise given. At times even a bull may be 
sacrificed. On the day of the sacrifice, nothing may be given 
away from the homestead, and the animal to be sacrificed may 
not be killed on the bare earth, but on twigs of fir. 6 

Besides the " House man," the Votiaks sacrifice also to the 
" Cattleyard man " (Gid-kuzo). This also is an anthropomor- 
phic, kindly spirit, which, in the sheds, looks after the cattle 
and sees that they duly increase, protecting them from beasts 
of prey and sickness. The " Cattleyard man " also looks after 


the provender of the cattle, as the Votiaks believe that he 
drives away strange spirits of like kind, when these come to 
their neighbours' sheds to steal provender. He dwells chiefly 
in the stables. The horses that please him are cared for and 
fed by him; he will even, at times, plait their manes and 
tails; but others which he hates, he tortures by riding them to 
exhaustion during the night. A folk-tale relates how a farmer 
spread resin on his horse's back, and in the morning, coming 
into the stable, saw a little old man, about half-a-yard long, 
sitting stuck fast there." As in the case of the " House man," 
both occasional and regular sacrifices are offered up to the 
" Cattleyard man." The Eastern Votiaks are in the habit 
of sacrificing a capercailzie in the cattle sheds when a cow is 
sick, and a brace of pike for horses. In some districts it is 
customary to offer up once for each foal the above fish-sacri- 
fice, so that these may, as horses, shine like the pike. The fish, 
however, is not cooked, but burned as it is in the cattleyard. 

The yearly sacrifices in honour of the " Cattleyard man " 
occur both in the spring, when the cattle are let loose to pas- 
ture, and in the autumn, when they are shut up in the cattle- 
folds again. In most places, it has now become the rule to 
give only a promise of sacrifice together with bread or porridge 
in the spring, the promise being fulfilled in the autumn if the 
cattle have been healthy out in the pastures and have in- 
creased. The sacrificial ceremony, in which only members 
of the family may take part, greatly resembles the ceremony 
under the floor, described earlier, the only difference being 
that the sacrifice intended for the " Cattleyard man " is burned 
in the cattleyard. Even the animals used are the same as in 
the sacrifice under the floor. In the prayers, the appeal is 
for fat horses and milch-cows, enough to fill the whole yard, 
or one may also say: " Be vigorous and strong, drive out the 
strange spirit, protect the cattle and banish all evil from the 
yard! " T 

The bath-house spirit is called the " Bath-house man " 


(Munt'so-murt) or the " Bath-house ruler" (Munt'so-kuzo). 
He lives in a dark corner of the bath-house and resembles 
in appearance a tall, middle-aged man, clad in a white shirt 
and shoes of lime-bark, or he may also be tall and have only 
one eye. Sometimes this being speaks and cries like a suckling 
babe. He appears to human beings only before some mis- 

The " Bath-house man " plays pranks with the bathers, 
sometimes hiding their underclothing, at times binding together 
the sleeves of their shirts or turning them inside out, in this 
way hindering their dressing. His nature is more evil than 
that of the spirits described above. It is not advisable to go 
alone into the bath-house, neither is it wise to quarrel there or 
speak loudly. Like the " House man," the " Bath-house man " 
can also substitute changelings in the place of rightful infants. 
In both the foregoing cases, a piece of iron or some other 
metal is used as an amulet. This spirit is rarely sacrificed to.' 

In the threshing-barn lives the " Threshing-barn man " 
(Obiri-murt). Sacrifices are offered up to him in the autumn, 
so that he may refrain from becoming angry and frightening 
folk, but instead protect the threshing-barn from fire and 
storm. For these sacrifices a goose or a duck is chosen, or, 
at times, a sheep, which is killed by the head of the family in 
the threshing-barn, or on the threshing-floor, -on to which the 
blood is also allowed to drip. The flesh of the sacrifice is 
cooked at home, after which all return to the scene of the kill- 
ing for prayers, the food being also brought there. In the 
end, the remains of the sacrifice and the bones are buried under 
the threshing-barn. Besides blood-offerings a sheaf of grain 
is often left on the beams of the threshing-barn after the 
conclusion of the threshing, for the use of the " Threshing- 
barn man." 9 

If one compares the household spirits of the Votiaks with 
the corresponding ones of the Russians, one cannot detect any 
difference even in the nature of the sacrifices. The " Korka- 


murt " of the Votiaks is identical with the Domovoy of the 
Russians. Sometimes he is also given the Russian name 
Susetka, which is used especially by the Siryans, whose folk- 
lore has generally adapted itself to the Russian. The Siryan 
Susetka dwells under the floor, like the Votiak " House man," 
where sacrifices in his honour must be placed. Like these he 
is a kindly spirit, which looks after and protects the prosperity 
of the house. If he becomes angry, all kinds of misfortunes 
are met with, manual labour turns out badly and the cattle 
grow thin, as the Susetka neglects to feed them. Sometimes 
he attacks human beings in the shape of a nightmare or kisses 
them in their sleep so that painful blisters appear on their lips. 
At times, he spins and makes a noise as though he were building 
something, but this is never a good sign, being followed by 
death, fire, or other misfortunes. When the Siryans remove 
into a new house, they also endeavour to appease the house spirit 
with sacrifices. Rogov relates that at a removal, the master 
of the house takes a picture of a saint from the corner of his 
old dwelling, goes down with this under the floor and calls 
to the house spirit in the following words: " Susetka, my 
brother, let us dwell also in the new. Love my cattle and my 
family." In the new home, the picture is placed in a corner, 
and the house spirit is bidden to take up its dwelling under 
the floor. According to a general belief among the Siryans, 
the household spirit does not move into the new house until 
the fireplace is ready. 10 

As with the Votiaks' " House man," foreign models are 
to be found for their " Cattleyard man," " Bath-house man " 
and " Threshing-barn man " among the Russians, from whom 
the Siryans also here have borrowed their spirits- The 
" Threshing-barn man " of the Votiaks corresponds with the 
Siryan Rynys olysa ("the one who lives in the threshing- 
barn ") or the Rynys-aika (" Threshing-barn man " ), the 
" Bath-house man " of the former with the Pyvsan olysa 
(" The one who dwells in the bath-house ") or the Pyvsan- 


aika (" Bath-house man " ) of the latter. 11 As the buildings 
themselves inhabited by these spirits are not originally Finno- 
Ugric, the spirits also must be of later origin. The dwelling- 
place of the " House man " under the floor points to the 
assumption that the Votiaks cannot have worshipped this spirit 
at the time when they still lived in the old koala-dwellings, 
where there was no floor. It is worth mentioning in this 
connection, that the " House man " has never had the kuala, 
in which the Finno-Ugric family gods are considered to dwell, 
ascribed to it as a dwelling-place. 

The anthropomorphic spirit dwelling in the house is called 
Port-oza (" House ruler ") by the Cheremiss, but when pray- 
ing to it, two names are used, Port-kuguza (" House man ") 
and Port-kuva (" House woman ")• The spirit appears at 
times, especially before some important event, in the form of 
a man or woman clad in the old Cheremiss fashion. If, for 
some reason, it becomes angry, it can bring about many kinds 
of misfortune among the family or in the home; thus it may 
cause illness. The Cheremiss sacrifice to it, so that it will 
not be angry or bring troubles upon the house. When ap- 
peased, or otherwise contented, it protects the home from 
robbers, fire, and spirits of sickness, and brings happiness and 
prosperity to the family. For this reason the Cheremiss pray 
very often to it. Every evening, when their women retire 
for the night, they offer up, in the name of the family, the 
prayer : " ' House man,' * House woman,' give success and 
health! " Besides those made for accidental reasons, annual 
sacrifices are offered up to the household spirit. In some dis- 
tricts it is the custom to go under the floor every autumn, bear-r 
ing beer, porridge, bread or pancakes, to beg for happiness 
for the home from the spirit, or a sheep may also be annually 
sacrificed. Sometimes, a black ram is sacrificed to the male 
spirit, and a black sheep to the female. 

Above all, the " House man " and *' House woman " are 
worshipped with bread and pancakes at the removal into a 


new house, when they are implored to make the new house 
happy, to give children, and to bring riches and other good 
things. They are also often prayed to for happiness when the 
first layer of logs is laid in its place. Even at the grove- 
sacrifices, when all the gods and spirits are remembered, a 
drink-offering is presented to the household spirits. 

An evil household spirit of Tatar origin is the Suksendal, 
which is believed to disturb the peace of the people of the 
house. It creates disturbances in the night, troubles people in 
the guise of nightmares, and has sexual intercourse with people 
in their sleep, appearing in the form of a man to women, and 
in the form of a woman to the men. Further, it deposits 
changelings in the place of children left alone in the house. 
To protect the latter from harm, the Cheremiss mother places 
a pair of scissors or some other iron object in the cradle. The 
Suksendal can not only do harm in the house, but can also 
molest human beings in the bath-house, where it may even kill 
a person paying a late visit there. 

The cattleyard spirits are the Vit'sa-kuguza (" Cattleyard 
man '*), and the Vit'sa-kuva (" Cattleyard woman "), believed 
by the Cheremiss to protect the cattleyard. They can appear 
to the inhabitants of the house in human form. If the 
" Cattleyard woman " likes the cattle, she causes them to in- 
crease, but where the cattle are displeasing to her, she refuses to 
protect them, neither does she cause their increase, but is instead 
cruel to them in many ways during the night. Thus, she 
drives them from place to place and prevents them from 
grazing in peace. In order to cause her to care for the herds, 
and refrain from molesting them, the Cheremiss offer up a 
hen to her. According to their statements, the cattleyard spirit 
is an old woman, who appears clad in white in the folds among 
the cattle in the evenings. 

A spirit who feeds some animals and worries others — 
especially horses — by riding on them the whole night 
through, so that these appear quite worn-out and limp in the 


morning, is called by the Cheremiss generally Vit'sa-oza 
(" Cattleyard ruler"). The name is, however, never men- 
tioned by the Cheremiss in their prayers, who turn instead to 
the " man " and " woman." 

The "Bath-house spirit" (Mot'sa-oza), most often re- 
garded as an evil spirit which disturbs the bathers, is not wor- 
shipped by the Cheremiss. Only when a new bath-house is 
heated for the first time, do they set a little butter on the 
benches, " so that the bath shall be good." The person offer- 
ing up the butter utters during the ceremony: " ( Bath-house 
man,' eat up the butter! '* 

The watermill spirit is the Vaks-oza (" Mill ruler "), which 
has also the power to appear in human form, sometimes as a 
man, at others as a woman. This last is decorated over the 
breast with silver coins. The mill spirit lives in the mill under 
the floor, or behind the water-wheel, and is friendly to the 
miller, whom it helps. Old millers, notably, are in league 
with the mill spirit. When the mill spirit is angry and the 
grinding goes badly, the miller sets out a dish of porridge as 
a sacrifice under the floor of the mill or in some other suitable 
spot. In the porridge-offering a pat of butter must be placed 
and a spoon given along with it. The Cheremiss declare that 
from the nature of the difliculties that beset him, the miller 
can interpret the present needs of the mill spirit. 

A spirit in the shape of a human being dwells also in the 
threshing-barn. The " Threshing-barn man " (Idem-kuguza) 
or "woman " (Idem-kuva) shows itself early in the morning, 
disappearing when one approaches it. In the ritual in the 
sacred grove a drink-offering is made to the " Threshing-barn 
man " and " woman," and they are remembered also in the 
harvest-festival ceremonies. A blood-offering may even be 
made to them at the threshing-barn. 12 

These Cheremiss household spirits bear also plain marks of 
Russian influence, which is equally evident in the correspond- 
ing beliefs of the Turco-Tatars in East Europe. Another 


anthropomorphic spirit is the Kardas-sarko (" Yard-sarko ") of 
the Erza Mordvins, which lives beneath a stone situated in the 
courtyard and is generally represented as a male, though some- 
times also as a female. But coincidently with these beings who 
clearly possess human characteristics, certain more primitive 
beliefs are found among both the Cheremiss and the Mord- 
vins, which may perhaps throw some light on the origin of the 
household spirits. These peoples had animated the buildings 
themselves. This appears plainly in Mordvinian folklore j 
while the parting words of a newly-married girl are: " Dear 
house, I have sojourned long in thy warm shelter." The 
household spirit Kud-ava (" House mother ") or Kud- 
azerava (" House mistress ") is originally the house itself, 
although these terms may at times be also used with a similar 
meaning to that of the Russian Domovoy. The more primitive 
meaning is discernible in the following examples: In a Mok- 
sha magic prayer the passage occurs: " House mistress, pardon 
him who built thee and heats thee." And in an Erza petition 
of a similar character we read: "House mother, above 
is thy lime-bark (the roof is thatched with this material), 
beneath are thy beams." The dwelling-place as a whole, i.e., 
with the adjoining buildings, designated as jurt by the Mord- 
vins, has a special spirit of its own, the Jurt-ava (" Dwelling- 
place mother "), known also among the Moksha as Jurt- 
azerava ("Dwelling-place mistress"). In addition, they 
speak of the " Bath-house mother," the " Mill mother," etc. 
The protectress of a whole village is the Vel'-ava (" Village 
mother"). 13 The Cheremiss, amongst whom the dwelling- 
place and all objects connected with it are also regarded as 
animated beings, impressionable and capable of feeling, believe 
that the kudo, their ancient dwelling-house, and the more 
modern fort, are fitted like human beings with a " soul " 
(ort) which can depart from its habitation. If one quarrels, 
shouts, smokes too much tobacco in the house, or keeps the 
place untidy, the " soul " disappears. " You drive away the 


soul from my house," say the Cheremiss when anyone disturbs 
the peace of their homes. Has the soul departed, then the 
house is no longer " happy," " life begins to be wearisome in 
it," and " the building has received hurt." When the building 
creaks in the night, the Cheremiss say " the building's * soul ' 
moves." In empty dwellings, which have been deserted for 
some time, there is no " soul," as they no longer " live." The 
soul of the building cannot in this primitive state take on any 
definite appearance, but is, as the Cheremiss say, merely 
the " prosperity," the " happiness," or the " comfort " of the 
house. An equally indefinite soul have the cattleyard, the 

■ threshing-barn, etc. As the " soul " of buildings was believed 
to be able to deliver itself from its material dwelling-place, 
it is hardly to be wondered at that gradually the thought 
arose, that these, like other souls, might at times become 
visible, e.g., in the shape of some domestic animal, a cat or a 
dog. 14 Later, the " soul " of buildings may have become 
identifiable with those of departed human beings or family 

. gods, and thus have borrowed from these last also their human 

Among the Cheremiss and the Mordvins the bee-garden has 
also its special tutelary genius. The former call this the 
Muks-ort (" Bee-soul "). The Moksha Mordvins worship 
the Neskeper-ava (" Bee-garden mother ") as the protective 
spirit of the beesj the Erza Mordvins use the name Neske-pas 
("Beehive god"). 15 

The Baltic Finns, who form a group by themselves, call 
the household spirit "the Ruler" (Finnish Haltia, Esthonian 
Haldja). Without doubt, this " Haltia," which according to 
the Ingrians was " not made nor brought, but was in and 
through itself," has the same origin as the ort of the Chere- 
miss. 16 Like this last, the Finnish Haltia needs no food. But 
one must do honour to him in every way. When settling in 
a new dwelling, and even when staying anywhere for the night, 
permission must first be begged of this " Ruler." If any 


rapping sound be heard in the house, it is regarded as a sign 
of permission to do so. Similarly, when entering a room for 
the first time that day, one must always remember to say: 
" Good morning, Ruler." In this case, also, the answer is 
a rap. 17 

Every room with a roof-tree had its own Haltia, as this 
last was supposed to live in the roof-tree. According to 
another report, he took possession of the house as soon as 
three logs had been crossed, and when the building was de- 
molished and the logs laid in a pile, the Haltia cried with 
fear lest he became homeless. But if even one log was taken 
into use, he removed with this into the new house. " In order 
that the Haltia should not feel lonely in the new house," 
the ashes from all the hearths were taken over to the new 
fireplaces. 18 

According to the prevalent view, the Haltia could become 
visible at times, but he appeared only before some misfortune. 
In Ingria the Haltia is said to have appeared at such times in 
the shape of a dog or a mottled or striped cat. This was a 
sign of fire. 1 ' The Haltia of a house was also pictured as a 
human being. According to a belief prevalent in Finland, 
the person who died first in the house, or the one who lit the 
first fire there, became the Haltia of the house. Especially 
was it supposed to appear in the shape of the first departed 
master or mistress of the house. As such, it was generally 
kind to everyone, and had special care, in particular, of the 
provisions. The male Haltia was of higher rank than the 
female, just as in life the master had stood above the mistress j 
but children grew up better where the Haltia was a woman. 
Both the male and female Haltia were better at the tasks 
which they had carried out while alive; under the care of a 
male Haltia the horses flourished, and similarly, cows, sheep, 
pigs and poultry under that of the female. Other buildings 
also, and even vessels, had their Haltia. That of the latter 
was intimately connected with the keel of the vessel. The 


Haltia of a church was sometimes regarded as being of equal 
height with the church. 20 

The Baltic Finns have to a very great extent been under 
the influence of the Scandinavians. The Finnish Haltia and 
all the beliefs now connected therewith find their counterpart 
in the Swedish Ra. or Radare (" ruler "). Of Swedish origin, 
as may be seen from its name, is the Finnish Tonttu (Swedish 
Tomte) with human characteristics, concerning which Bishop 
Agricola says, that he " guided the house." In some districts 
a special, clean room was furnished for the Tonttu. The 
room had to contain a table laid with untouched food, which 
was renewed a few times each week. With the exception of 
the person who looked after the food, no one was allowed to 
live in this room. 21 

Of the outhouses, the Tonttu occupied the bathhouse, 
stables, mill, and above all, the threshing-barn. Every thresh- 
ing-barn had its Riihitonttu (= Swedish Ritomte) who stole 
grain from the neighbours' fields and carried it to his own 
threshing-barn. The threshing-barn Tonttu looked after the 
threshing-barn, but if he was offended, he began to carry away 
grain from the house or would soon burn up the whole thresh- 
ing-barn. He was wished a good-morning in the mornings, 
and in the evenings, when the fires were lit there, the Tonttu 
was begged to keep an eye on them, and wished good-night. 
Should one desire to stay overnight in the threshing-barn, one 
, had to request permission of the Tonttu, and on no account 
could one lie down near the hearth. He appeared sometimes 
in grey clothes and wearing a grey hat on his head. Porridge 
and milk were offered up to him behind the threshing-barn 

According to some beliefs, the threshing-barn Tonttu was 
born of the last sheaf of grain that was cut in the fields. The 
sheaf was placed on the rafters of the barn for the whole 
year. At times, it was left for many years; and " during this 
period the spirit was supposed to come forth." When it was 


desired to ask on Christmas Eve what the next year's harvest 
would be like, the master of the house had to proceed to the 
threshing-barn and ask: " Good Tonttu, say what kind of year 
we may expect." If the threshing-barn creaked in reply, a 
good year might be hoped for. 22 

Among the household spirits may also be included a being, 
which gathers all kinds of good things from other places for its 
owner. The Votiaks, who perhaps have appropriated this spirit 
from the Russians, call it the " Bearer." It is said to resemble 
a cat, and assists its owner by bearing grain to him from other 
people's granaries. The animistic character of this being is 
shewn by the belief that if the " cat " is killed, the owner of 
the same dies likewise. 23 

The Finns call this spirit the Para, after the Swedish Bjara 
or Bara ("Bearer"). In Ingria there are Money-, Bread-, 
and Milk-Paras. In some districts in Finland also, the Para 
has brought its owner money and rye, and even, at times, 
manure from the fields of neighbours. Generally, however, 
the Para is regarded as the bearer of milk, cream and butter. 
As such, it was usually believed to have the shape of a cat." 
The " Butter-cat " of the Scandinavians is identical with the 
Smierragatto of the Lapps. 28 Anyone who desired to own 
such a spirit, could, according to the Finns, create one for 
himself. Its material body was fashioned, for example, out 
of cast-off female garments, the head of a thread-ball, and the 
foot of a spindle. Each of these objects had to be stolen. 
The milk, or other commodities brought by the Para to the 
house, was carried by it either in its mouth or in its intestines. 
If the door of the milk-closet was left open during the night, 
empty milk and butter dishes would be found full in the 
morning. The Seed-Para left a narrow track through the 
fields from which it had stolen grain. 26 

The same spirit is called Puuk by the Esthonians (Platt- 
deutsch Pukj Latvian Puhkis). The Money-Para of the 
Ingrians, which flies through the air like a meteor, is identical 


with the Esthonian's Tulihand (" fire-tail "), or Kratt (ancient 
Scandinavian skratli> "ghost"). The Esthonian Kratt, which, 
like the Finnish Para, could be manufactured of certain ma- 
terials, carried money, etc., in a sack. Food was offered up to 
it — generally porridge and milk. If, during its flight through 
the air, one succeeded in unloosing all the bindings and buttons 
of one's garments, the Kratt fell down upon the ground with 
all its treasures. 27 In Finland also the Kratti was known, 
where, as Bishop Agricola relates, it " had the care over 

A spirit flying through the air like a " fire-worm " — a 
meteor — the Votiaks call by a Tatar name, Ubyr. It is en- 
tirely evil in its ways, drinking the blood of sleeping persons j 
where this has happened blue marks are left on the body. 
The Ubyr may be either the soul of a living sorcerer, or that 
of an evil dead person. It can be brought to the ground in 
the same way as the Kratt of the Esthonians. 28 

On the boundary between the property of two neighbours, 
dwelt, according to the Finns, Raja-'aija (" Boundary man "). 
In West Finland they have a saying: " shouts like the Bound- 
ary man." It is believed that when the " Boundary man " 
shouts, there is no echo in response, and that he appears when 
boundary lines are dishonestly moved. In East Finland, ac- 
cording to ancient report, the people sacrificed on the boundary 
stones. 29 

The treasures hidden away in the earth had also their 
" Ruler " (Finnish Aarnion Haltia), and over them, on cer- 
tain holyday nights, Midsummer's Eve in particular, one 
could see blue flames. 50 

All the above mentioned beliefs have their counterpart 
among the Teutons and Slavs. 

The Esthonians in Krasna, who have continuously wor- 
shipped their old " land gods," sacrifice to the " Father of 
the home " (Kodojeza.) in a corner of their orchards. This 
holy or " purified " spot could be entered by women once 


only in their lives, i.e., after their wedding ceremony. It 
was the duty of the master of the house to look after the place 
and offer up sacrifices there, choosing as assistant a " pure '* 
person. Besides occasional offerings for some reason or other, 
the ceremony of the " family-beer " (perekaAi) was per- 
formed every autumn. A portion of all the flesh cooked in 
the house from sacrifices, would be taken over to the " puri- 
fied spot." B1 

In order to understand the genesis of the " pure spot " of 
the Esthonians, it is necessary to glance at a similar custom 
among peoples related to them. The Votiaks, who no longer 
possess their older dwelling-house, kuala, have the same sacri- 
fices in a corner of their yards as the other Votiaks in their 
kuala. The site of the old kudo is also regarded as " holy " 
by the Hill Cheremiss." May one assume that the family- 
sacrifice of the Krasna Esthonians to the " father of the 
home " (a " village god," Kulajumal, is also known) is 
identical with the autumn sacrifices of the Volga Finns to their 
family gods? In that case one could understand also the Finns' 
habit of offering up all kinds of first-fruits at the root of a 
holy tree or a holy stone in the vicinity of the home. Old 
sacrificial ceremonies often continue to exist under changed 

In the offerings to household spirits by the Finno-Ugric 
peoples it would appear that they, most of all felt the need of 
appeasing the underground spirits. Traces of an old Indo- 
European custom of sacrificing a human victim under certain 
buildings, are to be found among the Volga Finns, who sacri- 
ficed children under a new watermill," The Mordvins are 
said to have expressed the following wish at this ceremony: 
" Be the Ruler of the mill, the Mill mother! »** But from 
this the conclusion can by no means be drawn that the house- 
hold spirits of the Finno-Ugric peoples, the majority of which 
spirits are direct loans from neighbouring peoples, were 
originally human beings sacrificed under their buildings. 


AS IN olden days, hunting was one of the chief means 
of existence of the Finno-Ugrian tribes, it is but natu- 
ral that they should have peopled the forests with all kinds of 

Missionaries relate that the Scandinavian Lapps worshipped 
a Forest spirit, which was called Leib-olmai (" Alder man "). 
The Lapps honoured him " in order that he might give them 
luck in hunting." The following description by Randulf 
shows that the above mentioned spirit was especially the pro- 
tector of bears: " Leib-olmai is a bear-man or bear-god, who 
protects the bear, the holy animal, and who also presents it 
to the Lapps when they pray and call to him for it." He re- 
lates further that where the Lapps had not asked for the as- 
sistance of Leib-olmai, they not only lost their prey, but in 
addition the god might help the bear, when it would rush 
upon its assailants. Therefore the Lapps consult their magic 
drums before hunting the bear and pray the spirit not to 
take the bear's part. 1 

The older sources of information do not mention actual 
offerings to Leib-olmai nor anything about the manner of 
offering. Randulf only states that hunting equipment, bows 
and arrows, were offered up to him. According to J. Kildal, 
Leib-olmai looks down on the female sex. A woman may not 
walk round a tent where there is a gun, this being regarded 
as in some way connected with the Forest spirit. Forbus says 
further, that the custom of sprinkling extract of alder-bark 
on the hunters' faces at the bear-feasts, was carried out in, 
Leib-olmai's honour. 2 The name of the Forest god, " the 


Alder man," has probably been derived from this magic cus- 
tom. Judging by this, " Leib-olmai " would seem to be neither 
more nor less than the genius or race-soul of the bear. 

According to Charuzin the Russian Lapps worship a Forest 
spirit which they call Luot-hozjik (hozjik = Russian choz- 
yaika, " hostess ") . She looks after the reindeer when 
they wander in freedom in the forests in the summer, keeping 
them together, showing them good pastures, and protecting 
them from beasts of prey. From human beings she cannot, 
however, protect the flocks. She helps the hunters to catch 
the wild reindeer and the Lapps are not afraid of her. When 
they drive their reindeer out to pasture in the spring, they 
pray to this Forest spirit — "Luot-hozjik, protect our rein- 
deer." And in the autumn, should they recover all their 
flock, they say: "We thank thee, Luot-hozjik for protecting 
our reindeer." This Forest spirit, which lives on a mountain 
covered with lichen, resembles a human being in having a 
human face and walking on human feet, but the body is hairy 
all over like a reindeer's. 3 

The same Forest spirit may be the one spoken of by Genetz, 
Mintys. In one tale a being named Mientus appears which 
at times is like a male reindeer, but by casting off its horns is 
turned into a human being. 4 Originally Mientus meant 
" wild reindeer," and is probably their genius as Leib-olmai 
is that of the bear. Their reindeer spirit the Russian Lapps 
call Pots-hozjin (" Reindeer-master ") and Pots-hozjik 
(" Reindeer-mistress "), who have the same duties as Luot- 
hozjik. 1 

The Russian Lapps also speak about the tutelary genius of 
the wolf ; by treating a wolf very roughly, one could scare 
this spirit into keeping its wards in check. 

Among the Western Lapps the tutelary genius of the migra- 
tory birds is the Barbmo-akka (akka = " old woman"; cf. 
barbmolodde, " migratory bird "), who brings back the birds 
to the northern countries from the warm south. Further, the 


protecting spirit of birds is called " Loddis-edne (" Bird- 
mother ")." 

A Forest spirit resembling the Russian Lesiy is the Eastern 
Lapps' Miehts-hozjin (" the Master of the forest ") who 
according to Genetz is also called Vare-jielle ("Forest- 
dweller"). He is a black being with a tail, and does not do 
any harm to human beings unless provoked. When anyone 
shouts, sings or makes a noise in the forest, he becomes of- 
fended, and bewilders the culprit so that he cannot find his 
way out of the forest. The " Master of the forest " loves 
silence above all. 7 

The Western Lapps' belief in " Forest people " has been 
influenced by that of the Scandinavians. Leem mentions a 
Gams (according to Friis, Lexicon Lapfonica, = " echo," 
" daemon montantts ") which is probably the same being whom 
Randulf, in his records, names Gidne (Pite Lapp Kinej Lule 
Lapp Kani). This appears in the forest, and seen from the 
front resembles a beautiful maiden, but has a long tail behind. 
The Forest maiden serves the Lapps, bringing the reindeer 
together when they are spread among the hills and assisting 
in the milking of reindeer-cows. Sometimes she will even 
wish for sexual intercourse with a Lapp. 8 In appearance and 
conduct she reminds one of the Scandinavian " Forest maiden." 

Alien already in name is the Gufittar of the Scandinavian 
Lapps, an underground dwarfish being, who lives in the forest 
or on the mountains. At times he appears on the earth with 
fine herds of cattle. He will at such times hang a bell round 
the necks of the cattle, when one can easily hear where he 
wanders. One must then go boldly towards him without 
glancing to either side and show him a piece of iron, or else 
throw the iron over the cattle, when the Forest spirit will at 
once disappear under the earth and the cattle become the 
property of the enterprising person. The Lapp Gufittar 
corresponds to the Norwegian Go(d)vetter (" a good spirit ").* 

The Uldda of the Scandinavian Lapps is a similar un- 


derground being, which also appears on the earth with its 
cattle. It is said to change children left alone and in va- 
rious ways to disturb people who have settled on its ter- 
ritory. The Lapps generally pour a drink-offering on the 
ground for it, either coffee or spirits. The name Uldda shows 
it to be identical with the Swedish Huldra. 10 

It is uncertain whether the Forest spirits of the Lapps were 
the object of a special sacrificial cult. Their custom of pre- 
serving the bones of certain kinds of game by burying them 
in the earth or hanging them in trees, cannot truly be de- 
scribed as being of the nature of an offering. On the other 
hand the Lapps made offerings to their Seides to secure good 
luck in hunting. 

All the Samoyed stocks also know of a Forest spirit, gen- 
erally called " the Master of the forest." According to Don- 
ner the Ostiak Samoyeds sacrifice, among other things, 
peculiarly shaped arrows to the Forest spirit. A human-like 
image, often carved on an old tree, is made of the " Master 
of the forest." When an offering of anything eatable is made, 
the food is rubbed into the mouth of this image. 11 That there 
was some connection between the " Master of the forest " and 
the spirit of the " holy places " appears from the notes made 
by Lehtisalo among the Yuraks. " The Samoyed may wander 
freely in the forest, but when passing a holy place, he must 
sacrifice something, as otherwise the ' Master of the forest ' 
will be offended." 

The Ostiaks call the Forest spirit Unt-tongk (" Wood 
spirit"), which resembles a human being but is said to be 
hairy like a wild animal. A spirit of this kind lives in every 
forest. He gives game to those who remember him with 
offerings. The usual time for these is in the autumn or in 
the early spring, at the beginning of the two hunting periods. 
At Vasyugan an image of the Wood spirit is made. The 
Northern Ostiaks do not seem to have made offerings to him. 
In tales the family and daughters of the Forest spirit are 


spoken of, the latter being able to marry human beings." The 
Mis-khum (khtmt, "man") of the Voguls can appear as tall 
as a tree} he leads wanderers astray in the forest." A more 
evil spirit is Mengk, known to both these related stocks. Of 
these there are many, both male and female, in the forests. 
Their way of living resembles ours, and they are often re- 
garded as people from older times, while tales are told of 
their strength. 1 * Over a wide territory and also among the 
Yuraks the evil Parne is known, dwelling deep in the fast- 
nesses of the forest, and said to have three fingers on each 
hand, and on each foot three toes with sharp nails. 1 * 

The Votiaks call the Forest spirit ftules-murt (" Forest 
man "). In appearance and customs he is like a human being, 
but he is often imagined as one-eyed, and is believed to have 
the power of lengthening or shortening his body at will. 
Generally he holds his head on a level with the highest tree y 
and on account of his great height he is called " Great uncle " 
in the Glazov district. In the forest where he lives he has 
his household and family, and many treasures — gold y silver 
and cattle. He moves from place to place in the guise of a 
whirlwind. Forest spirits also celebrate weddings, which are 
held twice a year, in the summer and in the winter, the Forest 
spirits moving then as whirlwinds so that great trees are up- 
rooted. The Forest spirit entices people, more especially 
children, into his power. Sometimes he will also entice cattle 
to become lost in the forest, or drag them long distances in 
the whirlwinds. He is enormously strong, but being a stupid 
spirit, he is neither dangerous nor dreaded. Very often he 
is even of great help to people, giving game to hunters and 
protecting the cattle in the forest. 

The Votiaks make offerings to the Forest spirit in the 
forest during the autumn, preferably under a fir-tree. All the 
hunters take part in the ceremony. As offerings, brandy, 
bread, and a bull or a goat are used. In some districts bread 
is placed on the branch of a tree for the " Forest man." l * A 


prayer to the Forest spirit discovered by Aminoff runs: "Give 
me, * Forest man,' of thy forest-animals, squirrels, wolves, 
bears. Give also of thy bees, drive them into my bee-hives. 
If thou doest this we shall give thee gifts." 1T 

The Votiaks also sacrifice to the Forest spirit in order that 
their cattle may thrive and increase. In the spring when the 
cattle are driven out to pasture, the head of the family prays 
to him : " Great uncle, Forest uncle, now drive we our cattle 
out to pasture and begin our ploughing. Therefore, we sacri- 
fice to thee. Accept our offering. Protect the cattle from 
beasts of prey and evil people. Our cattle go over twelve 
rivers, behind twelve meadows. Save and protect them from 
disease and from all evil." The porridge prepared as an 
offering for the Forest spirit is taken to him in the forest in a 
basket made of birch-bark. Also in the autumn when the 
cattle return home, another offering is prepared, viz., a goose. 
The Forest spirit is thanked for having taken such good care 
of the cattle in the forest during the summer. 18 

Occasional offerings are also made to the Forest spirit, 
as when the foresters go out hunting. In the district of Sara- 
pul, offerings are sometimes made during stormy weather. 
At these times the offering is an animal, generally a duck. 
Offerings are further made in cases of sudden illness, accord- 
ing to the directions of the magicians. This last reminds one 
of the worship of the dead. The number of pancakes, made 
specially by the hostess for the occasion, must absolutely be 
an odd number, three, five or seven. When going to perform 
the offering, it is regarded as a bad omen to meet anyone, 
for which reason great care is taken to avoid this. After 
the person making the sacrifice has returned from the place 
of offering, he must go direct, without speaking, to the fire- 
place, where he washes his hands in the ashes, after which 
he may approach his family. 18 

Besides the above mentioned Forest spirits, which are wor- 
shipped by the Votiaks, these have still many others to whom 


offerings are not made. One of this latter kind is the Pales- 
murt (" Half-man ") known to all the Votiaks. It resembles 
a human being, but has only half of a human body. Thus, 
it has only one eye, one foot, one hand and one breast, which is 
so large that it can suffocate people with it by pressing it into 
their mouths. In the twilight it frightens the lonely wanderer 
in the forest with its shrieks. 20 

More evil than the former is a spirit known in the South- 
ern Votiak area, called Surali, which is also anthropomorphic, 
but naked and hairy. It has only three long fingers on its 
hand (cf. Ostiak Parne). It calls all night in the forest, 
causes people to lose their way, and entices them to itself. 
At times it rushes suddenly upon people, tickles them or dances 
with them until they are completely exhausted. Often it will 
mount a horse in the meadows and ride it madly round the 
fields until the horse nearly falls. 21 

The Yskal-pydo-murt (" Cowfooted man ") belongs also to 
the evil Forest spirits, and from its name one can imagine its 
appearance. To the waist from above it is dressed in ordi- 
nary peasant costume, but from there downwards the legs, 
which are hairy and end in hoofs, are naked. 22 

Fully coinciding with the Forest spirit of the Votiaks is 
the Vorys-mort (" Forest man ") of the Siryans. The Siryans 
fear to call him by his correct name, and so all kinds of mys- 
terious names are used for him. Generally, like the Russians, 
they call him Dyadya (" Uncle ")■ Like that of the Votiaks, 
the Siryan Forest spirit also resembles a human being, having 
his house and family in the forest. He is large in size and 
taller than the highest tree, for which reason the Siryans often 
call him " Tall uncle." He rushes from place to place like a 
whirlwind and sometimes carries both people and cattle with 
him. Women fear him greatly, as he is believed to seek 
amorous adventures with them. The Forest spirits of the 
Siryans celebrate weddings, gathering then, as at human wed- 
dings, in great companies. On the whole the " Forest man " 


is a good spirit, being often of great use. To huntsmen, 
especially, who live on good terms with him, he shows the way 
through the wilds, sits by their camp-fires to warm himself, 
and drives game into their snares. Wherefore the hunters 
now and then make small offerings to him ; sometimes a little 
tobacco, which they place on a stump in the forest, as " Forest 
uncle " is known to like tobacco. But other offerings are also 
made to him, such as squirrel-skins and bread and salt, when 
the cattle have happened to go astray in the forest. 28 

On making comparisons, one notices that the Siryan and 
North Votiak ideas of the Forest spirits have been borrowed 
from the Russians to a very great extent, and resemble the 
popular beliefs of these down to details, the Russian names 
being also the local ones. Similarly, Tatar influence is per- 
ceptible in the Southern Votiak area. As appears already 
from the name, the evil Surali is a loan from foreign sources. 
The " Half-man," who seems to have been known also among 
the Ostiaks, corresponds to the Chuvash Ar fori, which has 
the same meaning, and the " Cowf ooted man " to the Tatar 
Syiyr-ajak ("Cow-foot")." 

An anthropomorphic Forest spirit, who can change his height, 
so that he can be as tall as a pine, is also the Cheremiss Kozla-ia 
(" Forest spirit ") or as he is sometimes called TargeldeS. In 
some districts he is said to have only one eye in the centre 
of his forehead. Sometimes he appears as a forest-animal, a 
dog, an owl, or also as a hay-stack, a stump, etc. He moves 
from place to place as a whirlwind. The usual abode of the 
Forest spirit is the forest, but often he visits the fields and 
meadows. In the forest he shrieks, or roars with laughter, 
so that the cattle become frightened. He can speak human 
languages and call the traveller by his name, and by pretend- 
ing to be his friend, entice him into his power. People be- 
lieve him and follow him until they can no longer find their 
way again. Thus the Forest spirit causes people to become lost. 
When lost in this way in the forest, one must change the right 


boot on to the left foot, and vice versa, to find one's way 
home. To fall into the power of the Forest spirit is danger- 
ous, as he tickles people to death. When in a good mood he 
will go to the huntsmen's log-fires to warm himself, but when 
angry he puts the fires out. Often he rides full gallop on 
a horse, frightening people who are picking berries or mush- 
rooms. In stories we are told that the Forest spirit also goes 
to the villages, where he sits down with the people and takes 
part in their feasts. He also arranges feasts and weddings 
in the forests, where he has a magnificent home and a large 
family, servants and cattle. To see the Forest-people is not 
a good sign, as very often some accident, sickness, or death 
follows. 88 

Ovda is another evil Forest spirit who has descended from 
the Chuvash to the Volga Finns. Besides living in the forest 
it is said to dwell in chasms in the rocks and in the ruins of 
old castles. These last named, one often hears called " Ovda's 
village." Ovda wanders in the forest in the shape of a hu- 
man being, but its feet are turned backwards. It is naked, 
with long hair and large breasts which it sometimes throws 
over its shoulders, and it is also covered with hair. Sometimes 
it appears as a man, sometimes as a woman. It has a home and 
property in the forest. In the same way as Targeldes cele- 
brates a marriage, Ovda also moves then as a whirlwind, so 
that the trees bend to the ground. Often one may hear it 
laugh and clap its hands in the forest. Ovda is feared be- 
cause it approaches people, enticing them to dance or wrestle 
with it, when it tickles or dances them to death. A human 
being can overpower the Forest spirit if he knows how to 
touch it on the left armpit, where there is a hole, the Forest 
spirit becoming powerless immediately when touched there. 
Ovda tortures animals out at pasture, as well as people, some- 
times mounting a horse and racing it nearly to death. In some 
places the people say that Ovda will mount a horse and make 
the poor animal run backwards. The Cheremiss call this 


spirit also by the Tatar name Sural i. A foreign name for an 
evil Forest spirit is Alvasta. 26 

When a Cheremiss makes offerings to the Forest spirits he 
addresses them mostly by the names Kosla-Kuguza and Kosla- 
Kuva (" Old man " and " Old woman of the forest "). He 
asks them for protection in the spring when he sends his cattle 
out into the forest. When a hunter goes out hunting he cuts 
a little opening in a tree and puts in a piece of bread for the 
Forest man, in the hope that the latter will help him by 
driving game into his path. The " Old man and Old woman 
of the forest " are further appealed to when a person is lost 
in the forest or wishes to spend the night there, and in the 
sacred groves, the people never omit to pour a drink-offering 
on the ground for the " Forest man and Forest woman." " 

To the Mordvin Vir-ava (" Forest mother ") alien features 
have also become attached later, which are obviously loans from 
the Forest spirits of the Russians. More especially in tales, 
the " Forest mother " is a humanlike being as high as a tree. 
She has a particular habit of sometimes slinging her large 
hanging breasts over her shoulders. She has long, freely 
flowing hair and her legs are as thick as logs. Besides appear- 
ing in human guise the " Forest mother " shows herself also 
in other forms, e.g., as a flame burning on the ground, as a 
whirlwind, or as any of the forest animals. She visits the 
villages in the form of a dog, a cat, or a wolf. A general 
belief is further that the Forest spirit appears at times as a 
horse flying at full speed through the forest. In stories it 
is said that the Forest spirit comes to the log fires to warm her 
long hands/ 8 

Among the Baltic Finns also, a Forest spirit resembling a 
human being is met with. Usually the Finns call the Forest 
spirit Metsanhaltia (" Forest ruler "), every forest possess- 
ing one of these beings. In some places he is believed to be 
an old grey-bearded man with a coat of lichen. Here also 
the Forest spirit can lengthen his body so that his head is on 


a level with the highest tree. When seen, he is of the height 
of an average human being but on being approached he be- 
came longer, so that at a distance of nine paces, he was six 
yards in height, and at six paces nine yards in height. Accord- 
ing to other reports the Forest spirit grew smaller on approach. 

Sometimes the Forest spirit appears as a woman. In West 
Finland the Metsanneitsyt (" Forest virgin ") is said to look 
like a very beautiful, well-dressed woman, but from behind 
she is like a stump, a bundle of twigs, a pole or a trough. 
Sometimes she is fitted with a tail like an animal. The Forest 
virgin is in love with men, and entices them to cohabit with 
her. 29 

The Finnish Metsanhaltia has its counterpart in the Skogs- 
radare of the Swedish Finns, and likewise their Metsanneitsyt 
in the Skogsjungfru of the latter. The Mets-haldijas 
(" Forest ruler ") is known also among the North Esthonians, 
his cry in the forest meaning that something special is about 
to happen, — a death, — for example. 30 

Bishop Agricola mentions two Karelian Forest or Game 
spirits — Nyrckes (in folk-poetry, Nyyrikki, " Tapio's son "), 
who " gave squirrels from the forest," and Hittavainen, who 
"brought hares from the bushes." The latter is even today 
known in East Finland; the people say, for example, of a good 
hunter that: " Hittavainen will bring him game even if he set 
his traps in the stable-loft." Etymologically these names are 
not clear. 

A peculiar idea of the Finns is that one must make offerings 
to the Forest spirit at some ant-hill. Here, however, one can 
note traces of the former belief in certain small anthropo- 
morphic beings, who were supposed to live under the earth 
(Maahiset, Esthonian Maa-alused, Swedish Alva). It is be- 
lieved that " those who live under the earth," and who can 
cause skin-diseases in one who sits down near their abode, are 
small ant-like beings. Similar beliefs are also met with in 
Sweden, where such ant spirits are called Alv-myror. 81 Un- 


derground people and Forest spirits often play similar parts 
in folk-belief. 

If the forest people were angered, they could keep one in 
the forest, so that it became impossible to find one's way any- 
where. Especially if, when wandering in the forest, one hap- 
pened to hit on the Forest spirit's track, one was sure to be- 
come lost. Those who had thus been bewildered by the 
Forest spirit were called " forest-bewitched." To find one's 
way out of the forest the reversing of one's garments was 
employed. Cattle which had become lost in the forest, were 
said to be " hidden by the forest " (metsan peitossa). The 
Swedes in Finland called this skogett holler (" the forest 
keeps ") . 

According to the Cheremiss the anthropomorphic Forest 
spirits were originally human beings. It is believed that those 
who die in the forest become Forest spirits or their assistants. 
When anyone dies in the forest, he becomes a Forest spirit, 
who on the site of his death frightens people and causes 
them to lose their way so that they too may die." 2 Even a 
horse that dies in the forest is believed to move in the night 
and to attack wanderers. The Cheremiss call it "horse- 
TargeldeS." M 

The ceremonies attached to the making of offerings to the 
Forest spirit by the Votiaks also bring into mind the cult of 
the dead. In certain districts it is an old custom at the worship 
of the Forest spirit to remember the dead. Aminoff relates 
that in the District Vjatka, where hunting still plays an im- 
portant part in the nourishing of the tribe, offerings are made 
at the beginning of the autumn hunt to the dead, coincidentally 
with those to the Forest spirits." It is hardly to be wondered 
at that the dead should gradually have changed into Forest 
spirits, when one remembers that burials took place in the 
forest at an earlier time. A relic of this old custom can still 
be traced among the Votiaks, who believe the dead to in- 
habit willingly the depths of the forest. And further, it is 


only natural that those who have found an unknown grave 
in the forest should remain there as feared, ghostly beings. 

One must, however, also recollect that the ceremonies in 
honour of the fallen bear and other more remarkable forest 
animals are of a similar character. That among the Forest 
spirits there should actually be found the race-souls of tutelary 
genii of animals appears, e.g., from the beliefs of the Lapps. 
Originally these animal spirits moved in the material shape 
of the animal they represented j little by little they became, 
in the imagination of these people, more humanlike. But 
even thus changed, they cannot hide their origin — they are 
hairy, like animals, they have the feet or tails of beasts, etc. 
The Ingrian wolf -spirit is described in the following tale: 
" To a village tavern in Sombra there once came a being, who 
was in all else like a man except that he had a wolf's head, 
and asked for spirits to drink. He was offered a small bottle 
which, in the host's opinion, was quite enough for a man. 
The guest was, however, unsatisfied, and drank first a whole 
can, and then several small bottles In addition. When he was 
about to leave, the host, wondering greatly, asked him who 
he was. The guest answered that he was one who would lead 
all the wolves out of their country." 86 

But the forest itself and the separate trees contained therein 
were also regarded as animated among the Finno-Ugric 
peoples. Charuzin relates that when the Lapp goes to the 
forest to fell trees, he strikes the trunks first with the back 
of the axe before beginning to chop them down, or, as the 
Lapps themselves say, "kills the tree first." Should they 
omit to do this, they believe that the wood from these trees 
will crackle and throw out sparks when burning." Mrs. De- 
mant-Hatt, during her travels among the Lapps, observed 
that the Lapp girls, when returning from the heights to the 
forest districts, hurried to embrace and greet the trees. Ac- 
cording to the missionary Lundius, the Lapps also worshipped 
trees, as when they had shot down game from a tree, they 


laid the feet of the animal in the tree, smearing it also with 
the blood. 3 ' 

In the same way the Cheremiss also regard the forest in 
animistic fashion. When they go into it, they greet the trees, 
ask them the way, and pray to them for a peaceful resting- 
place for the night. In the morning they give thanks and 
offer their hands to the tree under which they have spent 
the night. " The tree understands what men say, and the 
forest listens to the song of the hunter." The trees are afraid 
of the lumbermen and tremble when one of these goes by with 
his axe on his shoulder. When felled, the tree attempts to 
kill its murderer by falling on him. It is even believed that 
trees can change their sites. As elsewhere in nature, one may 
not use ugly or rough words in the forest. The Cheremiss 
speak also of the tree's " soul " (ort). While the soul is in 
the tree, it is glad and prospers, but when the " soul " moves 
away, the tree withers. At festivals for the furthering of 
bee cultivation, an offering of a duck is even made to the 
" tree-soul." When hanging up a bee-hive in a tree, they 
say: " Tree-soul (Pu-ort), give luck to the bees," or: " Gather 
the bees around thee." * 8 

Whether the Finno-Ugric peoples worshipped special kinds 
of trees as such is uncertain. The Baltic Finns, however, seem 
to have known tutelary genii for the different trees. The 
Esthonians believe that the spirit of the birchwood never goes 
into a forest of alder or oak. 39 Milkovic relates of the Erza 
Mordvins that when they prayed for rain, they turned towards 
an oak, saying: " Oak god (Tumo-pas), give rain." While 
doing so, a man would conceal himself in the foliage, whence 
he would sprinkle those praying with a drink made from 
honey. The food-offering was hung in a vessel of bark on a 
branch of the sacred oak. 40 It is possible, however, that not 
the oak itself, but the Thunder god in the shape of the oak 
was the object of worship at these ceremonies. The rowan also 
played a prominent part in the beliefs of the people. Both 


the Baltic and the Volga Finns believed in its protective 
powers, though offerings were not made to this tree. Accord- 
ing to the Hill Cheremiss evil spirits could not approach the 
rowan, and for this reason, when anyone was obliged to spend 
the night in the forest, branches of rowan were placed under 
the head, and if one were even then afraid of ghosts, one 
could run to the shelter of a rowan. 41 The same idea is met 
with also among the Russians, etc. 

The common representative of all the trees is the forest 
itself; when worshipping it the Mordvins call it Vir-ava 
(" Forest mother " or " Mother forest "). The Tapio of the 
Finns, of whom Agricola says: " he gave game from the 
forest," and who in folk-poetry appears in anthropomorphic 
guise, meant originally merely " forest," as may be seen even 
today from countless expressions in folk-songs, e.g., " the 
twig-filled Tapio," or " oak Tapio." This would seem to have 
been taken over by the Russian Lapps, whose Tava or Tava-ajk 
(" Tava mother ") is a Forest spirit.* 2 Originally, the Hiisi 
of the Finns, who, according to Agricola, " gave victory over 
the forest dwellers," meant also " forest " j but, in a more 
restricted sense, hiisi also signified a sacred grove. Often in 
magic prayers and songs, the forest itself is appealed to: 

" Good forest, pure forest, 
Watch over my herds of cattle." 

Like the animal spirits dwelling in the forests, the animated 
forest itself aspires to anthropomorphic features. In attempt- 
ing to simulate a human being, however, it cannot hide its 
original self. Standing among tall pines, the Forest spirit 
is as long as these, and moving in the underbrush it again 
shrinks to the height of this. The Mordvin Forest mother, 
when in the shape of a human being, has still feet as clumsy 
and thick as logs, and the Forest virgin of the Finns, beautiful 
from a front view, appears from behind as a rotted stump or 
a bushy tree. In the folk-poetry of the Finns, " the King 


or Lord or Mistress of the forest " has " a hat of pine- 
needles," a " blue mantle," and a " beard of leaves." 

An extremely wide-spread belief is that the Forest spirit, 
having bewildered human beings and enticed them into its 
power, tickles, dances, or smothers them to death. The ex- 
planation of this curious idea is to be found in the psychic 
state that overwhelms the individual, when lost in the forest, 
and, in desperation, he sees no chance of ever finding his way 


COMPARATIVE research shows that the ideas of the 
Finno-Ugric peoples regarding Water spirits have to a 
large extent been influenced by impressions from other sources. 

In remote times, the Lapps, for success in fishing, seem to 
have offered chiefly to their gods of stone or Seides, which 
the Fisher Lapps always put up on the coasts of rivers and 
seas. Such a Seide stone was called also a " Fish-god.'* The 
spirits living in the water itself have never had sacrifices 
offered up to them to the same degree. 

A god, known only at the coasts, is Akkruva, the upper part 
of whose body the Lapps imagine to be human, the head 
covered with long hair, the lower part of the body that of a 
fish. She rises at times from the sea and, sitting upon the 
water, rinses and combs her hair. Sometimes Akkruva walks 
up to the mouths of the rivers taking fishes with her, and at 
such times the catch is excellent. What this sea-spirit, called 
by Friis Avf ruwa, really is, is shown above all by her name 
— a distortion of the " Havfru " of the Scandinavians, which, 
like the above mentioned being, had a human upper body 
whilst the lower body was fishlike. 1 

Limited also to Scandinavian Lapland is the Ravgga, 
which lives in the water mostly in human shape, its appearance 
or voice predicting misfortune, tempest or shipwreck. Meri- 
lainen, who calls it in Finnish, Meriraukka, tells that it ap- 
pears on the shore examining the accessories of a boat, from 
which, later, somebody will be drowned. When it is seen 
walking on the shore, the duty of the beholder is to walk 
round it with a firesteel, when it will stop, or, if it disappears 


on approach, to wait for its reappearance. It should then 
be asked why it has appeared, who will be drowned and when. 
That the Meriraukka is the spirit of a drowned person, is 
shown by the fact that it keeps in the neighbourhood of the 
body, the boat, the clothes, etc., of the drowned. 2 

As already pointed out by Fritzner the Ravgga of the Lapps 
is the same being as the Old Norse draugr.* 

As will be seen from the name, the Lapps have also re- 
ceived from the Scandinavians the evil Nekke or Nik (Swedish 
Nacken), which is known also in Finnish Lapland, and is fur- 
ther met with among the Finns and the Esthonians.* 

A Water spirit with a Lapp name, to whom offerings are 
sometimes made, is the Cacce-olmai ("the Water man"). 
He is the god of fishing, who brings fish to the hooks or in 
the nets and lines. In the notes made by S. Kildal we read 
that at sacrifices men made an image of the Water man and 
put it into a crevice so that he might give them more luck. 
On the other hand they sacrificed to the " Water man " so 
that he should not do them any harm on the water." 

The Cacce-olmai of the Scandinavian Lapps corresponds 
to the Cacce-jielle (" Water dweller ") of the Russian Lapps. 
This is a dangerous spirit who calls upon and then tries to 
drag people into the water. The sight of it predicts disaster. 
A woman who saw this spirit while fetching water from the 
sea asked him whether his appearance predicted good or bad. 
She was told that her son would die, which happened also 
within three days. 

Cacce-jielle presents itself to people in different shapes; 
as an old man, a pretty woman, a naked child, or often also 
as a fish, which somehow differs from other fishes. It is 
considered dangerous to kill such a fish. When seeing it 
one has to sacrifice something, a piece of bread, a coin or 
brandy. Strange fish are said to be the children of the water 

The " Water dweller " of the Russian Lapps corresponds 


completely to the Vodyanoy of the Russians, whose Water- 
Nymph, the Rusalka, is called by the Kola-Lapps Cacce- 
jienne ("Water mother"). In. the shape of a naked woman 
she emerges from the water at dawn to comb her long black 
hair. When frightened, she throws herself into the water 
so quickly, that she leaves her comb on the shore in the 
place where she was sitting. She loves men and entices them 
to her. The Saiva-neida (" Sea maid ") of the Western Lapps 
is a loan from Scandinavia. 7 

A Water spirit is also found amongst the Samoyeds, who 
call it the " Master of the water." Generally he is looked 
upon as a dangerous spirit, sometimes bringing disease. Ac- 
cording to Donner they sacrifice money, etc., to him, espe- 
cially at the mouths of rivers. In cases of illness they hang 
clothes on bushes near the water for him. During certain 
seasons the " Master of the water " is offered sacrifices that 
he may give fish. 8 As a rule, images are not made of him, 
only the ,Yuraks worshipping him in the form of a fishlike 
image of wood, or choosing a specially shaped dried fish to 
represent him.* 

The Ostiaks call the Water spirit Jengk-tongk (" Water 
spirit "). Patkanov tells that sacrificial feasts are held on the 
shore, before the beginning of the fishing, to honour the 
Water spirit and to influence him in the fishermen's favour. 
Although their Water spirit has no image, almost all the 
usual sacrificial ceremonies are gone through. For the spirit 
itself the blood of bigger animals and of cocks is poured into 
the water. Polyakov says that the spirit was offered brandy 
and a cock, a lamb or a calf, and that only some drops of the 
blood of the victim were poured into the water. Also in the 
autumn, as soon as the rivers are frozen, the Ostiaks sacrifice 
to the Jengk-tongk on the ice. 10 

Like the Lapps, the Ostiaks sacrificed in older times for 
luck in fishing chiefly to the spirits of the dead, which are 
believed to live in certain holy places. Karjalainen points 


out that the Forest spirit as well as the Water spirit is sacri- 
ficed to chiefly in such districts where foreign influences may 
be noticed. Except in tales, where the Water spirit has been 
given special features, the idea entertained regarding it, espe- 
cially in more remote territories, is very vague." At Vasyugan 
they sacrifice to a certain Fish spirit, Kul jungle (" Fish 
spirit "), that lives in the water and is said to give fish to its 
favourites. When the ice has broken up, a fish-like image 
is made of wood or birch-bark and taken along to the fishing 
place. Especially of the first catch is the Fish spirit given 
its share." 

The Water spirit of the Voguls, Vit-khan (" Water Khan "), 
appears to be still less than that of the Ostiaks an object of 
sacrificial worship, although it is mentioned in folk-lore, e.g., 
that the spirit or his daughter may marry human beings." 

A loan from the Siryans is the Water spirit Kul, an evil 
being living in deep waters and known both in the western 
districts of the Ostiaks and in the northern part of the Vogul 
territory. It has a human shape. 1 * 

In leaving the Lapps and Ugrians and turning to the other 
tribes, we pass at the same time from hunting and fishing 
peoples to agricultural ones. Fishing is no longer of the same 
importance, although it is in places pursued next to the chief 
occupation as a good second industry. The importance of the 
water is nevertheless not diminished by the development of 
agriculture. The villages are still, as far as possible, situated 
near to the waters, which besides ways of communication are 
used also to afford power for mills. Agriculture, moreover, 
has drawn the attention of man to an important feature of 
water, namely its secret power of fertilization, without which 
no vegetation can exist. Man being thus in many respects 
dependent upon this important element of nature, the result 
is that the water itself becomes an object of sacrificial cult. 

Before considering the animated water itself, we will first 
glance at those Water spirits, found amongst other Finno- 


Ugrian tribes, to which the imagination of the people has 
given distinct features. 

The Votiaks call their Water spirit Vu-murt ("Water 
man "). In some places he is also called Vu-kuzo ("Water 
master ")• He is a human-like, often naked being, with very 
big eyes and long black hair. They speak also of the fingers 
of the " Water man " $ these are stones resembling thunder- 
bolts which they believe to be found on the shores of rivers. 
Usually, the " Water man " lives in deep waters, such as the 
big rivers and seas, but he also likes to dwell in little brooks 
and especially in miHr ponds. The " Water man n has a house 
and a family in the water. According to folk-tales he may 
also seek the company of people, especially at the time of the 
great fairs. The " Water man " then appears dressed as a 
peasant, but is easily recognized by the left side of his coat 
being always damp. Often the " Water man " is an invisible 
being, and woe to the unfortunate person to whom he then 
appears, as this is a foreboding of death or other misfortune. 

Like the male Water spirit, the female has also features 
which betray her foreign origin. She is beautiful and her 
naked body is glistening white. Sometimes in the twilight 
the wife or daughter of the " Water man " will emerge on 
the shore to comb her long black hair. In some places she is 
said to have breasts as big as buckets. The male spirit, like 
the female one, is a shy being, who immediately throws him- 
self into the water on being observed by a human eye. 

Besides appearing generally in human form, the " Water 
man " may sometimes become visible in the shape of a fish. 
Fishermen have seen him as a pike, differing from other 
pikes by his enormous size and by his sleeping with his head 
in the opposite direction to that of other pikes. 

Twice a year, in the spring and in the autumn, the Water 
spirits have weddings, during which they move in the water 
merrily and noisily, causing inundations, so that the mill 
sluices break. The Northern Votiaks have, further, the idea 


that they come during the winter before Christmas to the vil- 
lages and occupy the bath-houses ; one may sometimes meet 
them in the twilight on the village street. For this reason 
the Votiaks are afraid to go out alone without a light. It is 
also dangerous at these times to make a noise near the water, 
to rinse dirty clothes, or to ferry singing people over any 
river. While they are thus on the move they are called the 
"evil spirits." When Twelfth Day is over, the Votiaks 
accompany the Water spirits back to the water where they 
live. On account of this the feast of Epiphany is also called 
" the following of the Water spirit." During Twelfth Night 
the young people wander with torches from bath-house to bath- 
house, to hear their fate and to call to the " Water man " — • 
" Leave us ! " The following morning men supplied with 
axes, sticks, or branches go down to the river, where they knock 
on the ice saying: " Go away from us." On this occasion they 
turn to the river itself with offerings: " Preserve us from all 
disease and accidents." A piece of bread, a spoonful of por- 
ridge and a piece of meat are thrown into the water. In some 
districts it was the custom to sacrifice a duck to the " Water 
man " through an ice-hole. 

The Votiaks' impression of the " Water man " is more that 
of an evil than a good spirit. He brings ruin to both people 
and animals, and is dangerous in the winter, because he breaks 
the ice under the feet of the wanderers so that these sink 
helplessly into the depths. The " Water man " can also send 
sickness. If appeased he can, however, be of very great use. 
For example, he helps the miller in his work, and fishermen 
by driving fish into their nets. He is also believed to protect 
and increase the water birds. 

Sacrifices are made to the " Water man " for accidental 
reasons, but also at fixed times. In the autumn the Votiaks 
sacrifice a duck or a goose in the river, so that no one will 
drown or be taken ill with ague. At the same time the " Water 
man " is prayed to, to protect the geese and ducks, and to 


increase their number. The blood of the bird, its bones and 
a piece of the meat are thrown into the water, along with 
bread. Sacrifices are made in addition when sickness occurs, 
a bird often sufficing for this offering. If' the mill sluice is 
out of order, or if there is fear of a flood, offerings are made 
to the " Water man." " 

Among the Siryans the usual name of the Water spirit Is 
Kul, but it is also called Vasa (" Water dweller "). As 
among the Votiaks the Water spirit possesses here distinct 
features that hint at a longer period of development. This 
is true of both the male and the female spirit. The male one 
is a black, hairy and wet being, who at times sits on the shore 
shaking himself and sometimes seizing the mill-wheel. Some- 
times the people imagine him to be a being with a big head 
and big round eyes, who at times emerges from the water and 
comes ashore to comb his dark green hair. He is dressed in a 
green robe or his body is naked. When he throws himself 
from the shore into the water a tempest arises and the waves 
rise high. He swims thus, especially in bad weather, in the 
water, but at other moments he has been seen rocking on the 
water or on fishing nets or standing on some pier. Sometimes 
the water spirit haunts the night, slapping the washing hung 
out to dry, or crying loudly on the river-bank. He has also 
been seen at the fish-spearing and recognised by the sudden 
disappearance of his boat and torch. 

As with the male Water spirit, the characteristics of the 
female one differ in different districts. She is also a long- 
haired being, who combs her hair with her big paws. There 
is a tale about a peasant, who found a Water maid sitting 
naked on a hill, combing her hair, and frightened her so that 
she threw herself into the water, leaving her comb on the hill. 
The peasant took the comb to his house, but in the night the 
Water maid came to claim it back. 

The Water spirit may also appear in the shape of a small 
child, according to the Siryans. The children of the Water 


spirit are, while young, hairy and of a peculiar appearance, 
often like fishes, but become later more human in shape. 
Now and then a child of the Water spirit may stray into the 
net of a fisherman. 

Like the Votiaks the Siryans also know the stony fingers of 
the Water spirit. These are belemnites, found near the beaches 
in the land of the Siryans. 

At times the Water spirit takes another shape than that of 
a human being. Thus it may appear, as among the Votiaks, 
m the shape of a big pike. In the collected works of Nalimov 
the Water spirit is mentioned as a pike that could speak and 
had long white hair on its head. By mistake it had gone into 
the net of a fisherman. 

The Siryans also believe the Water spirits to have weddings, 
when they make much noise and break down the sluices of mills, 
and that they go and dwell amongst human beings at Epiphany. 

The Water spirit of the Siryans is a being much feared. 
The mere sight of him means tempest, death or other dis- 
aster. He entices both mankind and animals to his home. 

From the notes of Wichmann it appears that the Siryans 
offered the " Sea spirit " butter and bread in order that he 
might give them fish. When fishing one had to be careful 
not to use bad words, as this incensed the Water spirit, who 
in his anger would seize the net so firmly, that the fisherman 
could not move it. Like the fisherman, the miller also has 
to keep on good terms with the Water spirit. For other pur- 
poses also, the Water spirit is sometimes given small offerings. 
No Siryan will go over water without giving the Water 
spirit a gift: if nothing else he throws at least a thread from 
his belt into the water." 

According to the Siryans the Water spirits have their origin 
in the spirits of the drowned, which continue living in the 
water, where they have entered the service of the Water spirit. 
Even the name Kul is, as is proved by Setala, the old name of 
a Finno-Ugric god who lived under the earth, the cult of 


which was obviously connected with the cult of the dead. 17 
Whep comparing the present highly developed characteris- 
tics^of the spirit Kul, which the similarly-named spirit of the 
0b peoples, borrowed from the Siryans, does not possess, with 
the corresponding features of the Water spirit of the Great 
Russians, it is evident that the first mentioned, even to its de- 
tails, is a copy of the latter. The name Vasa seems to be only 
a translation of the Russian Vodyanoy. 

A fully corresponding Water spirit of the Cheremiss is their 
"Water master" (Vtit-oza). He is said to dwell in such 
waters as do not dry up during the hot season. Usually the 
Water spirit is here also an evil and feared being. Especially 
is it dangerous to swim at midday. Where he does not 
succeed in kidnapping a man, he will take cattle. The male 
Water spirit appears usually as an old man who is often seen 
before dawn on the surface of the water near the shore. He 
is dressed sometimes in rags, and sometimes in splendid 
clothes j his chest being, for example, sometimes covered with 
silver coins, but at times he is also naked. The Cheremiss 
say that the greater a river is in which a Water spirit lives, 
the richer it is. Should a human being cast his eye on him, 
he throws himself immediately into the water. Besides his 
human form, the Water spirit can also show himself in the 
form of a horse or a bullock. The Water spirits living in the 
sea show themselves mainly as bulls, and the bellowing of 
the " water bull " has often been heard from the sea. But 
the Water spirit can also take the form of a fish, or of other 
miscellaneous objects. But in whatever form he shows him- 
self, the sight denotes disaster — often death — to the one 
who has seen him, or to some one belonging to him. 

The female Water spirit, " Water master's daughter," has 
been seen on the shore combing her long hair with a gold 
or silver comb. Sometimes she becomes entangled in a fisher- 
man's fishing-tackle. Once some fishers found a great being 
in their net, which dragged it here and there. With great 


labour they managed to keep hold of their net, and when they 
finally succeeded in dragging it nearer to the boat, they saw 
a pretty dark maid, who, however, disappeared immediately 
from sight. The net became at once lighter and was found 
to contain no fish at all. Sometimes people are fortunate 
enough to get a rt Water master's daughter " into their power. 
This happens only when they throw a piece of iron at her or 
touch her with their hands, as then the water-maid cannot 
move an inch. 

In prayers, the Water spirit is often referred to as " Water 
old man " (Viit-kuguza) and " Water old woman " (Vut- 
kuva) . The Cheremiss worship the " Old man " and the 
" Old woman " of the water when they go swimming or fish- 
ing. The fishermen offer up to these spirits bread or brandy, 
sometimes even a duck, a goose, or a hen, as they are supposed 
to drive fish into the fishermen's tackle. In the spring, when 
the first fish has been caught, the Eastern Cheremiss generally 
boil it immediately, and eat it without breaking the bones, 
the latter being thrown back into the water with the following 
words; "'Water man,' come and eat fish; I have tasted it 
already, give us still more fresh fish." " 

Similar beliefs in human-like Water spirits are met with 
among the Mordvins. The spirits living in the water are 
here called Ved-eraj (" Water dweller ") or Vetsa-eraj (" He 
who inhabits the water "). There are many such spirits, and 
they are malignant beings, who, like Vampire spirits, lie in 
wait for newly born children, and devour grain that has been 
cursed by an enemy. 10 

The Baltic Finns have been under Germanic influence. 
The Nacken of the Swedes is called Nakk by the Esthonians, 
and they believe it to live in all deeper waters, such as the 
sea, rivers, lakes and wells. The deepest spot in the water 
is particularly its dwelling-place, and also any whirlpool. 

The Nakk presents itself in different shapes, as a human 
being, an animal, or even some inanimate object. Neverthe- 


less, it lives in the imagination of the people mostly as a 
human being. In this shape, according to the idea of the 
Esthonians, it is both male and female, and may appear full 
grown or as a child. The people believe the male spirit to be 
a grey old man, who at times swims in the water with his 
enormous, widely opened maw, swallowing everybody who 
comes in his path, sometimes lifting his head above the water, 
sometimes seating himself on the shore of a river, lake or 
sea, or on the cover of a well to watch for people. When ap- 
pearing in human shape he executes human work. Now and 
then he is found by night at the fish-spearing places and is 
recognized by having his torch not in a boat but on a stone 
slab. One of the most remarkable features of the Nakk is 
his song, by which he bewitches his hearers, who in this way 
become his prisoners. In the neighbourhood of Hapsal the 
belief prevails that when the Nakk sings or plays, men and 
animals begin to dance in gradually increasing tempo until 
they at last fall into the sea. Although the Nakk appears in 
human shape, he has, in the tales of the people, fish teeth. 

Like the male spirit, the female human-like Water spirit 
has also the pronounced character that proves development. 
To distinguish her from the male, the Esthonians call her 
Nakineiu or Nakineitsi (" Nakk's maid "), Veeneiu (" Water 
maid") or Mereneiu ("Sea maid"). Usually, Nakineitsi 
is a pretty young girl, who sits on the surface of the water, 
or on a stone on the shore, or in the shadow of a tree growing 
near to the water, combing her long hair with a golden comb. 
Her hair is wonderfully pretty, now golden yellow, now 
grass-green. Occasionally she appears naked, at other times 
dressed. In some districts the Nakineitsi has a human body 
and a fish tail. 

As with the Nakk, one of the most important features of 
the Nakineitsi is her song and her music. On the coasts they 
speak also of the cattle of the water-maid, which are beautiful 
and fat. The colour of the animals is usually grey, like the 


sea. Suddenly emerging from the sea, the cattle come ashore, 
where they are tended by the Nakineitsi until she again dis- 
appears with them after awhile. The Livonians tell of blue 
sea-cows; some of these sometimes go astray from the other 
cattle and remain on the shore, falling thus into the hands of 

Besides his human form, the Nakk of the Esthonians also 
appears in the shape of a young, usually grey horse, sometimes 
also as a white foal. This emerges from the water, runs all 
round the shore, approaches children and entices them to sit 
on its back, whereupon it immediately rushes back into the sea at 
a gallop. At times it can also appear as an ox, now black, now 
brown or grey, or as a white calf. The Nakk that has changed 
himself into an animal, is recognized by his coming from the 
sea and disappearing into the water. Sometimes he even 
changes himself into a startled hare, which by running to 
and fro on a pier tries to entice its pursuer so far, that the 
latter is in danger of falling into the water. He may also 
appear as a waterbird, a swan, a goose or a duck. Further, 
the Nakk is seen in the shape of a fish, which at times comes 
ashore, winds its tail round a fisherman, and drags him into 
the water. Often the Water spirit appears also as a big 
strange-looking or one-eyed fish. Two fisherman had once 
fished a long time without catching anything when one of 
them saw two strangely shaped gold-glittering fishes in the 
water. Neglecting the warning of his comrade he set about 
catching these fish and got one in his net, but as he was about 
to lift it from the water there suddenly arose a strong tempest 
and .snowstorm, and at the same moment the fish disappeared 
from the net. The Nakk can also take the shape of a lifeless 

In whatever shape the Nakk appears, he is always a danger- 
ous and feared being, whose mere appearance predicts drown- 
ing or other disaster. Even if the one who sees him is not 
himself doomed, one of his relatives will perish in the water. 


Some people believe that in all waters where a Nakk dwells, 
a man will be drowned every summer. When the time for 
this approaches, a voice is heard from the water: " The hour 
has struck, a man is wanted." Against his will somebody 
will then go and bathe and lose his life in the water. Be- 
fore he drowns, the water becomes agitated, boils and seethes, 
but calms down as soon as it has got its victim. The Nakk 
can drown people not only in deep but in shallow places, where 
the water is only a foot deep. 

The Nakk takes his victim either by enticement, by be- 
witching songs, or by appearing in the shape of the animals 
or object that a man desires. At times he bewitches the eyes 
of people so that they no longer recognize their surroundings, 
but lose themselves and at last are at his mercy. The cattle 
he entices by changing himself into an animal, mingling with 
them on their pasture ground, and, on his return into the 
water, enticing the other animals to follow him. 

One who notices the danger in time, may protect himself 
against the menace of the Nakk. An effective remedy is to 
mention his name, as on hearing this he flees at once and throws 
himself into the water. To protect themselves, the inhabitants 
of the island Mohn, before going into the sea, take a stone 
from the beach, spit on it and throw it into the sea, saying: 
a A cake to the Nakk." Women also do this when they go 
to the sea-shore to watch the sheep, as they believe that the 
Nakk will not touch them or their cattle if they throw him a 
cake into the water. 10 

The Nakki of the Finns closely resembles the Nakk of the 
Esthonians, only a few new features being met with in the 
former. In West Finland the Water spirit is represented as 
a man of unusual size. He has been seen in the shape of an 
immense, long and stout old man standing over the water, 
so that one foot was on the one shore and the other foot on 
the other shore of the sea. A miller saw him thus standing 
over a waterfall, like an unusually big, grey man. Probably 


this latter type of the Water spirit has been influenced by the 
traits of the Forest spirit, which appears in mythology more 
regularly than the Water spirit as a lone being. At times the 
Water spirit also appears as a dwarf. So he was once seen 
by fishermen : " in the bag of the net was a small human-like 
old man, not longer than two spans, with long hair reaching 
to his throat." 

Sometimes he is half-man, half -animal: the upper part 
human, with horse-feet. He does not seem to appear in com- 
plete horse form in the imagination of the Finns. On the 
other hand he has been seen as a dog with a long beard ; some- 
times as an enormous buck, which wears net-pouches on its 
horns. Often Nakki appears also in the shape of an object, 
at times as a big balk or log, which differs from an ordinary 
one by having an eye as big as a plate and a mane on its back, or 
as a tree, fallen into the water, which sinks when one tries to 
sit on it. 

The female Nakki has also many other names such as 
Nakinneito, N'akinpiika (" Nakki maid "), Vedenneito (" Water 
maid"), Merenneito ("Sea maid"), Vedenemanta ("Water 
mistress "). According to the ideas of the people this Water 
spirit is a pretty being. In Osterbotten they believe that the 
female Nakki is a beautiful woman with glittering white body 
and very long curly hair. On the coast of Osterbotten and in 
Nyland the Water maid is further known by her breasts as big 
as buckets, which are thrown over the shoulder when bathing. 

When the Water maid appears, she is always busy in some 
way. Now she washes her face or her breasts, now she combs 
her hair, splashes gaily in the water, washes her clothes on 
a stone on the shore or on a rock in the sea, or goes sometimes 
on land to watch the water cattle in the grass on the beach. 

The idea that the Water spirit possesses magnificent cattle 
in the water is very general in Finland. Often it has been 
noticed how stately cows emerge from the sea, which on the 
approach of a man go back into the water and dive down. 


When the Water spirit disappears with his cattle at sun- 
rise, it may happen that an animal is left on the shore. Ac- 
cording to the general belief of the people, this can be seized 
by walking round it once or thrice with a piece of iron in the 
hand, as then it can return no more to the water, but belongs 
to man. In vain the spirit cries from the water for his lost 
animal. It is very advantageous to possess a cow of the Water 
spirit, not only because it is pretty, but also because it gives 
much milk; it is however to be noted, that it always gives 
only the same quantity that was milked the first time. 

At times the cow of the Water maid is like a fish. Once in 
Karelia a fish with horns and feet was caught in the net of a 
fisherman, who, after some wondering at its appearance, threw 
it ashore, with the result that in the night the plaintive cries 
of the Water woman were heard. 

According to the Scandinavian Finns, besides the Water 
spirits, the Maahiset (" those living under the earth ") also 
possess big cattle that man may seize, if he throws something 
made of steel upon them. As the Water spirits rise from the 
water, so the " Undergrounders " emerge from the earth and 
disappear therein. In North Finland and in Russian Karelia 
the same power is given to the cows of the Manalaiset (" the 

Now and then the Water spirit also appears in the shape of 
a big fish of unusual species or strange shape. Once some 
boys caught a big salmon-trout, which had lost itself on a low 
river-bank. At home they were told, however, that the fish 
was a Marras, and they were instructed to take it back to the 
water, because they would otherwise drown on the same spot 
where they had caught the trout. Lencqvist already mentions 
the Marta as an omen of death. 

The Finnish Nakki is, like the Esthonian Nakk and the 
Swedish Nacken, always an evil and feared being. That 
children may take care when near the water, they are fright- 
ened by words such as " Nakki comes." A usual means of 


protection against Nakki when bathing is a form of witch- 
craft in connection with certain words. On stepping into the 
water the bather once, thrice, or even nine times, scoops water 
on to the beach with his hand or throws a stone, taken from 
the water, or earth from the sea-bottom, on the shore, saying: 
" N'akki ashore, I into the water." After bathing the pro- 
ceeding is reversed, the water or the object used previously 
is now thrown back in the river or the sea, with the saying: 
" Nakki into the water, I on land." Another means of pro- 
tection against Nakki is to put into the water a piece of metal 
or a metal object while one is bathing. Similarly, animals 
also have to be protected against the evil caused by N'akki. 
When bathing a horse they used to put into the water some 
one of the above-mentioned metal objects or bind a fire-steel 
to the tail, or hang a bell on the neck of the horse. More 
particularly had this to be done with an unshod horse, be- 
cause Nakki is believed not to seize a shod horse. 

Similar ideas and means o£ protection are general also 
amongst the Swedes. 

Of foreign origin is also an idea of the Finns, that the 
Water spirit is a musician, whose wonderful music anybody 
can learn. The proper moment to approach it for this purpose 
is Midsummer Night, or before the Eves of Lent and Easter. 
The spirit may be seen on a rock in a waterfall, on one that 
has never been under water, or on one that is always sur- 
rounded by water. The person wishing to learn has to take 
a violin with him. When the Water spirit has emerged from 
the waterfall, he will seat himself on the same stone as the 
man, turning his back to him, and start to teach him. As a 
reward the man has to promise himself to the Water spirit 
and during the lesson bind himself fast to the master, but with 
caution, so that the ties break or become undone when the 
spirit suddenly precipitates himself into the water. Should 
the fetters not loosen, the pupil falls into the power of the 
Water spirit. The one who succeeds in passing through the 


trial becomes a great player, who can make people dance even 
against their will. Sometimes his violin develops the wonder- 
ful quality of playing by itself and even its pieces will play 
when the violin is at last broken. 

The wonderful music to be learnt from the Water spirit is 
known round all the Scandinavian countries. 

Corresponding to Nakki is the Vetehinen ("Water 
dweller"), known originally only in Russian Karelia, Ingria, 
and East Finland, who in the imagination of the people ap- 
pears as a human-like being with marked characteristics. 
Vetehinen is also regarded as a malignant being. He causes 
a disease (eruption) and, like Nakki, seizes people and 
animals as sacrifices. Protection against him, as against Nakki, 
is found in metal objects. The idea of Vetehinen does not 
however completely cover that of Nakki, which latter is ex- 
clusively the cause of drowning, because the Karelians worship 
the former also as the giver of luck in fishing. 21 Foreign in- 
fluence is to be noted already in the name of Vetehinen, of 
which Castren says that both in idea and etymologically there 
is a correspondence to the Water spirit, which the Russians call 

The Mordvinian Ved- or Vetsa-eraj corresponds in name to 
the Water spirit of the Votes, the Jarv-elaj (" Sea dweller "). ! * 
Only through their literature do the Finns know anything now 
of the old Water spirit of the Tavastlanders, Ahti, about 
whom Agricola says, that he " brought fishes from the water." 
In the old popular poetry he appears as a water dweller, and 
in a song about the origin of frost, the following description 
occurs: " then thou caused a strong frost, when thou made Ahti 
freeze in the sea." 2 * The etymology of the name is not 
clear. According to Daniel Juslenius (1745) Wainamoinen 
was also a Water spirit j Agricola does not, however, mention 
him thus, but says only that he " composed songs." Both Ahti 
and Wainamoinen appear in folk-poetry as mighty heroes. 

Over all Finland and also amongst the Finnish Lapps and 


Northern Esthonians the dark Vedenhaltija (" Water ruler ") 
is known. He is supposed to appear before a disaster in hu- 
man shape, and he corresponds completely to the Swedish 
Sjori, Sjoradare, etc. 

The belief that the drowned are transformed into Water 
spirits is general among most of the Finno-Ugric peoples. 
The Esthonians, for instance, believe that the size and shape 
of a Nakk depend upon the person drowned. If an adult 
had fallen victim to the water, his Nakk would appear as a 
full-grown person j if a child, the spirit would appear as a 
child. When swimming in places where people had been 
drowned, one might easily get cramp, because the spirits of 
the dead seized the living by their feet and dragged them 
down. Like the Siryans, the Esthonians sometimes call the 
water spirit by a name that originally meant the spirit of the 
dead: Kull or Koll (cf. the Lapp Ravgga). The spirit living 
in a river is called Joe Kull (« River Kull »)" 

A similar being, although not originally of Cheremiss origin, 
is their Pele kolese (" Half -dead "), which floats on the sur- 
face of the water with its face turned upwards like someone 
drowned. A person who tries to save it falls a victim himself 
to the water. The Cheremiss have a general idea that where 
a corpse lies, there its " soul " (ort) remains. The fishermen 
at Belaya told me how a young Cheremiss mother, who, on 
her way back from a feast, had been drowned by falling 
through thin ice, rises early in the morning on the beach to 
express her sorrow for the babe she had left. The fishermen 
had heard her plaints: " My breasts are filled with milk, my 
little child cries at home! " !6 

Further evidence of the transformation of drowned people 
into Water spirits, to whom one sacrifices for luck in fishing, 
are the Soiem tongk (" River spirits ") of the Konda Ostiaks, 
" which are drowned people." According to Paasonen, every 
family has a common idol-house for its members lost thus, 
where they are given offerings twice a year, in spring and in 


autumn, before the beginning of the fishing season; the latest 
of the deceased receiving a cock, while to those transformed 
earlier, clothes are given. The drowned appear during the 
course of the year following their death to the priest and 
are then escorted to the god-house, receiving at the same time 
a shirt or a kerchief as an offering. 27 But from the examples 
given it becomes evident that the " souls " of the different 
species of fish, or their tutelary genii are also contained in the 
Finno-Ugric Water spirits. The Yurak Samoyeds make an 
image of a fish-like " Water master " or they choose as such a 
dried fish of peculiar appearance. The Ostiaks make an image 
of a fish when they worship their " Fish spirit," and with other 
peoples also the Water spirit often appears in the form of a 
rare fish. The Pite Lapps speak of a Water spirit with horns. 28 
Sometimes these " spirit-fish " can be detected only by their 
position. The Water spirit of the Permian tribes appears as 
a large pike which is recognised by the fact that it is larger 
than others, and that when sleeping it holds its head against 
the current of the water, or towards the shore, or contrary 
to the other fish. The " Water dweller " of the Russian 
Lapps often appears as a turbot or a flounder, which contrary 
to the habit of these fish comes inshore. Sometimes the Fish 
spirit strives after more human-like features. 

The Siryans say that the " Water dweller n when young 
resembles a fish, but as it grows begins to resemble a human 
being. A " spirit-pike " could speak and had long light hair 
on its head. 28 In Pite Lapland a white fish was caught that 
had scales all over its body, except on its breast, which re- 
minded one of a woman's breast. 30 In a tale from the Finnish 
coast, a Water spirit was found by the people, which from the 
front was like a most beautiful young maiden, but on its back 
was covered with scales and had also fins. It is believed in ad- 
dition that in the Baltic there are water-dwellers with a human 
body and a fish-tail. Even when a spirit appears altogether 
as a human being, it has generally some fish-like feature, 


such as the large maw of a fish, fish-teeth and round eyes. 
Another significant fact is that it moves with the other fish, 
taking them with it from the sea to the rivers, and also that it 
wanders into the fishers' traps. There is a story of such a half- 
fish, half -female being in the Karelian folk-songs which Lonn- 
rot uses in the Aino episode in Kalevala (viii. 45—133). 

The Finno-Ugric peoples also envisage the water itself 
animistically. The Cheremiss say that the "water lives," it 
moves from one place to another, serves people and carries 
their boats. Donner relates, that the Samoyeds, when they 
are out in their boats and come to a new river, wash their 
heads with its water. A large river they call " Mother." " 
This custom is met with also among the Siryans, who, when 
they go out fishing, sacrifice bread to the Vorikva River say- 
ing: " Vorikva-mother, carry us without danger, protect us, 
and give us a whole boatful of fish." 3i The Votiaks and 
Mordvins, when praying, use also the name " Mother " to 
their rivers and brooks as the Russians speak of the " Volga- 
mother," etc. 

The Volga and Baltic Finns have the same belief, i.e., 
that lakes can move from one place to another. This may 
happen as a consequence of someone offending the water by 
polluting it. They say that when the sea wanders, a black 
bull goes bellowing before it, so that people may know to 
get out of its way.' 3 

In a little village in the District of Birsk there is a lake 
that has the same name as the village, Cherlak. The people 
say it has two sisters, Azelekel and Kandralekel, which are 
also two lakes in the District of Belebey. Cherlak Lake is 
the youngest sister and is called the " Cherlak girl." Some- 
times it is asked to visit the older sisters, and to take with it 
water, fish and sea birds. Some time ago it paid a visit to 
them, the lake being in the meanwhile so dry that cattle were 
able to pasture on its bed, the only water being in a hole. 
The village was quite unhappy over the shortage of water and 


decided to offer up a sacrifice to the " Cherlak girl." They 
thought first of offering her a black bull, but this did not 
please the lake as the animal did not shudder when water 
was poured over it. In the end they offered a black heifer, 
which she accepted with pleasure. Clad in clean clothes, 
the people around sprinkled water on one another from the 
water that was left in the hole, praying to the " Cherlak girl " 
to return to its old place. The heifer's bones and pieces of 
its flesh were wrapped in its hide and hidden in the water 
hole. On this occasion the following prayer was read: u Water- 
mother, protect the water, give the Cherlak girl good 
health, bring her and all kinds of fish back to her place, 
bring her with all kinds of sea-birds, give the water good 
health. Make Azelekel and Kandralekel return her former 
riches to the Cherlak girl! " When it had received the sacri- 
fice, the water began to return, but in the beginning it was 
muddy and foul. The village sacrificed a black lamb for the 
health of the water, and then " the water became clean and 
even fish and sea-birds began to appear." Sometimes, the 
elder sisters also come from Belebey to visit the " Cherlak 
girl," when it becomes flooded. An old Cheremiss related that 
during his lifetime it has happened twice that a strange lake 
has visited another. 

The Cheremiss and Mordvins generally call the animated 
water " Water mother." Probably the Esthonians* Vete-ema 
(" Water mother ") and Mere-ema (" Sea mother ") have the 
same origin, although the ideas connected with them are now 
in close relation to the Wasser-mutter of the Teutons. The 
Livonians' Mier-iema (" Sea mother ") is a similar goddess." 
Agricola says that the Karelians worshipped Veden ema, who 
"drove fish into their nets." 

In the magic prayers of the Mordvins the " Water mother " 
has already certain anthropomorphic features: silky hair, and 
a plait decorated with silver wire, at times also her children 
and family are mentioned. One finds, however, in some 


prayers words like these: " Water mother, Boyar mistress, thou 
comest from the sea and spreadest thyself over the whole 
country, thou wanderest over thine own land, thou floatest 
over thine own ways, thou doest much good, thou receivest 
many genuflexions, thou fiowest glowing like gold, shining 
like silver." S( 

It is quite evident that the " Water mother " in the votive 
prayers is the animated water itself. As an example one might 
give the following prayer written down by Melnikov among 
the Christian Mordvins. " Water mother, give all Christian 
people good health. Give health to those who eat thee and 
those who drink thee, to those who bathe in thee a light and 
merry heart; give the cattle also who drink thee good 
health." 88 

Smaller offerings are also made to the water when going 
out to fish, or in sickness, i.e., ordinary skin diseases which are 
believed to come from the offended water. The real water- 
cult is, however, connected with agriculture. Mutual sacri- 
fices have been made to the Water mother, chiefly to obtain 
fruitful rains. Like the earth, the water is given a black 
sacrificial animal, generally a bull or a sheep. The Cheremiss 
have a custom of sprinkling water on one another at such 
ceremonies. Black sheep, or hens that happen to be near the 
water, are also sprinkled with it. A part of all the sacrificial 
food is thrown into the water, in addition to the bones and a 
portion of each part of the carcase, which, wrapped in the 
hide, are also thrown in. At the close everything used at the 
sacrifice is rinsed in the water. If a sacrifice should bring too 
much rain, the offerings that have been thrown into the water 
must be taken up again, and buried in the earth to make the 
rain cease. 37 

A water cult of this description was known among the Vo- 
tiaks, Mordvins and Baltic Finns. J. Gutslaff (1644) relates 
about the Esthonians that they worshipped a brook (Woh- 
handa), which they believed could produce a fertilising rain, 


or when the brook so desired, torrential rains, hail, or frost. 
An old man said that the weather could be arranged with the 
brook's help. If one wished for rain and stormy weather, 
one threw something into the water, but if one wished for fine 
weather, one cleaned out the brook. An example was given of 
a pair of oxen which, while out at pasture, fell into the water 
and were drowned, with the result that a terrible rainstorm 
arose and only ceased when the carcases were dragged out of 
the water. 88 Often, " rain is made " without sacrifice, by 
wetting people, the walls of houses, cattle, and the fields. 
Among the Votiaks, the " Thunder mother " has in many 
districts usurped the place of " the Water " at the large com- 
mon sacrifices. Among the Mordvins it has been noted that 
in some places they had a custom, when sacrificing for rain, 
of going round a little lake three times, carrying a duck, which 
was afterwards cooked and eaten in honour of the water. 
Sometimes the finding of rain-giving springs is difficult. But 
if rain comes soon after a sacrifice to a spring or brook, one 
can be certain of having found a good sacrificing-place. 
Droughts are often caused by rain-giving springs becoming 
choked. These have then to be cleaned out in order to obtain 



When the fructifying powers of rain were noticed, the 
belief arose that rain could also fructify human beings and 
animals. To the general custom of taking a newly married 
woman to the brook near her husband's home, in order to 
conciliate the strange water, the rite of sprinkling her with 
water has been added. This custom can be explained partly 
by the belief that one must come into contact with the new 
water oneself in order to become acquainted with it. The 
Siryans have a custom according to which a newly married 
pair should go to the nearest stream three days after their 
wedding, when the wife sacrifices money and pieces of cloth 
and thread, or bread and cheese to the " mother " river, after 
which she washes her hands and face in the water. With 


most of the agricultural Finnish races it is regarded as neces- 
sary to drench the bride completely with water. If weddings 
are celebrated in the winter, when it is of course too cold to 
do this, the Votiaks and Ingrians consider it their duty to 
drench all the winter's brides together In the spring. It is 
not quite clear why this wetting is done, but some light may 
perhaps be thrown on the matter by a Mordvinian custom. 
According to this the bride goes the day after the wedding to 
the stream or well, not only to pour water over herself, but 
to beg the " Water mother " to give her children. Bishop 
Makariy says that when the bride sacrifices money, linseed, 
bread and salt to the water, she begs it to wash her clothes 
and give her children. The same author says that barren 
Mordvin women also pray to the "Water mother" for her 
assistance. Usually such sacrifices were made at midnight, 
when both husband and wife went together in secret to the 
shore. According to Butuzov the Erza woman also prayed 
in the following words : " Water mother, pardon me, if I have 
offended thee and therefore cannot give birth to children." 
The German belief that children come from the water 
(" Kinder-brunnen ") is also explained by the above.* 

Rivers and seas were also prayed to for an increase of water- 
birds. Aminoff says that the Votiaks sacrificed a duck to the 
water, so that it might richly increase their geese and ducks. 41 
Wichmann has discovered the following prayer: "To Mother 
Ybyt (a river) I give a goose. Produce many geese when 
their time comes." * s The Mordvins also pray to the " Water 
mother " to increase their cattle. 

The Votiaks and Mordvins, like the Russians earlier, each 
spring when the ice begins to break up, celebrate great festi- 
vals with sacrifices of horses in honour of the water. Among 
the Votiaks this feast is called " to follow the ice." In 191 1 
the author had the opportunity of being present at one of these 
feasts at the river Buy, one of the tributaries of the Kama. 
After a young foal had been killed and cooked on the shore 


of the stream, the people knelt down with their faces towards 
the water, while the officiating priest read out a long prayer, 
begging prosperity from the river. During the prayer the 
bones, hide, and small pieces of the different parts of the 
carcase were thrown into the water, together with the animal's 
new halter, the blood having been already drained there by 
means of a channel dug into the bank. The animal sacrificed 
is changed each year, being one year a brown foal, the next 
year a black bull. The people believe firmly that if they do 
not sacrifice to the river, it will flood their corn-fields, or make 
great gaps in the banks, or cause fogs, storms and disastrous 
hail-storms. In one village this same spring, the sacrifice 
had been neglected, and in punishment hail had ruined the 

The Cheremiss believe that the water has also a " soul " 
(ort) that can depart to other places. They say that when 
the water's " soul " disappears, the water becomes muddy and 
foul. Illness follows from drinking such water. The close 
relation between the Water spirit and the water itself with its 
" soul," is shown by the belief that if the " Water master " 
leaves, the water dries up, and that a spirit can rule over two 
different waters, causing each to fill or dry up as it removes 
from one to the other. The undefined Pamas-oza (" the 
Spring's master") of the District Ursum is also apparently 
a nature-soul. It becomes angry if anyone comes to take 
water from the spring with unclean vessels, or if any one 
shouts, quarrels, speaks indecently or spills water over his 
clothes. It punishes such people by giving them boils or 
some other skin disease 5 and they must then cook porridge 
at the edge of the spring and ask for pardon.** 

Doubtless the undefined Veden Haltia (" Water ruler ") of 
the Finns is of the same origin. An indication of this is the 
strange magic custom, that when the water in a well is spoilt 
or run dry, fresh water is brought from another well, in the 
belief that by thus renewing the water in the well, a new 



Haltia is secured. To lakes also in which the fishing water 
is spoilt or where the Haltia is not good, " new water " and a 
u new Haltia " are brought. Considering that in the above- 
mentioned proceeding, which is also known among other tribes, 
e.g., among the Chuvashes, the water, by the addition of new 
and better water, is provided with new soul-power, we may 
assume that the Haltia here is to be understood in the sense 
of the nature-soul. It is further to be observed that origi- 
nally each sea, lake or river had only one Haltia. 

These examples should show, that besides the spirits of 
those drowned and the tutelary genii of the fish, the water 
itself, furnished with a soul, is included among the Water 
gods of the Finno-Ugric stocks. 


THE SUPREME deity among the Finno-Ugric stocks 
is the Heaven god, who is called by different names, 
the original signification of which is the same among all the 

In the Finnish language there are two words, Jumala and 
Ilmarinen, both of which were originally names for the god of 
the sky. The former, which is found in Icelandic literature 
as early as 1Q.26 (Jomali), has in our time come to denote 
"god" in general (deus), like the loan-word Jubmel or Ibmel 
in the Lapp tongue, except among the Cheremiss, where in 
its present form of Jumo it has preserved its original meaning. 
In this last language the word has also a third meaning which 
may be taken to be the very oldest, i.e., the " sky " or the 
" air." A similar example of a word meaning " heaven " or 
" the Heaven god " gradually coming to denote generally 
" god," is provided by the Turco-Tatar Tangere. The second 
Finnish word also, Ilmarinen (diminutive of ilmari), which 
later became the name of a hero in the Kalevala, comes from 
a word originally meaning "sky" or "air" [ilma). The 
word Ilmari formed by adding a suffix, is met with also among 
the Votiaks, Inmar (the god of the sky), and originates there- 
fore from the Finno-Permian period, over a thousand years 
before the birth of Christ. Contemporaneously, and with the 
same meaning as the word Inmar, there is another word in the 
Votiak, In(m) (= Finnish lima)} the same word being also 
found among the Siryans, Jen (now meaning the Christian 
God), and among the Ostiaks, Hem or Item. These last-named 


have also other names for this god, such as Num-Turem 
(Turem = "sky," "air," "world," etc.), which has its 
counterpart in the Vogul Numi-Torem. The word Turem 
has been compared by Castren with the Lapp Tiermes (the 
god of thunder) . Both the sky and the Heaven god are called 
Num by the Samoyeds. 

Knowing that the highest god, as appears already from his 
names, was at one time merely the animated sky, it is not sur- 
prising that, especially in earlier times, the people's ideas of 
him were dim and uncertain. The most usual qualities at- 
tributed to him are " great," " high," " good " j in the south- 
ern districts the Ostiaks call him Sangke (" light "), prob- 
ably a shortening of Sangke-Turem. As there was no actual 
conception of his being, there were no attempts to materialise 
him. Characteristic for all the above-mentioned peoples is 
the following description of the Samoyeds: "They never 
make images of Num, therefore they do not know how to 
sculpture him." 1 

Only in folk-poetry do we find the Sky god anthropo- 
morphised. Here, we find the Cheremiss relating that he is 
a man-like being, living in the sky. Like the people down 
below, he practises agriculture, he has green pastures and much 
excellent cattle. As befits a good Cheremiss farmer, he even 
keeps bees. In the sacrificial prayers he appears as a worldly 
ruler with a large train of' lesser deities, to whom at times 
sacrifices are also made. Like a rich and powerful ruler, the 
god of the Ostiaks and Voguls dwells in the highest story of 
heaven in a house glittering with gold and silver; he is said 
to have seven sons and many assistant spirits, some of which 
have wings. The idea of a heavenly suite is, however, of 
later origin, a fact that appears also from the names borrowed 
from the Turco-Tatar. 2 

It is quite natural that the sky with its light and rains, and 
other wondrous forces and phenomena affecting so closely 
the whole of our earthly existence, should have early become 


the object of the curiosity of primitive peoples. It would 
seem, nevertheless, that however animated the sky was re- 
garded as being, no sacrifices were originally offered up to it. 
This is witnessed to by the fact that even today, sacrifices to the 
Heaven god are extremely rare among the more northern 
peoples, e.g., the Eastern Samoyeds and the Northern Ostiaks, 
for whom the god himself is too far away to be at all interested 
in human life. 3 

The worship of the Heaven god is more closely connected 
with agriculture, which, more often than any other occupation, 
raises its glance to the sky. That he is a god of agriculture, 
is shown plainly by the fact that sacrifices are made to him 
chiefly that the fields may become fruitful. According to cer- 
tain peoples, his period of worship is the summer months 
only; as the Votiaks, for example, believe that Inmar may be 
sacrificed to, like the " Earth mother," only up to the begin- 
ning of winter, after which it is regarded as unsuitable to do 
so.* Quite apparent is the opinion that the sky is a pro- 
creative power. In their prayers, the Votiaks call Inmar, 
" the procreator and nourisher," the Mordvins address their 
"god dwelling on high" (Erza: Vere-pas) generally by the 
name "procreator," Moksha: Shkaj or Shka(j)-bavas, Erza: 
Shki-pas (from ska-ms, "to procreate," "to give birth to," 
words to be found now only in folklore ; bavas or fas, " god," 
an Indo-Iranian loan-word). The word ska; may at times 
denote only and solely " the sky," as in the phrase, skajs 
mazems ("the sky reddens")/ The Voguls believed that 
the Heaven god " sends down " even animals; in a prayer 
to Numi-Torem occur the words: " Send down, our father, 
the fishes of the sea, let down the game of the forest! " a 

In later times the Heaven god among the Volga Finns has, 
under the influence of Christianity and Islam, become a much 
more powerful god, to be worshipped in all the necessities 
imposed by life. Even now, however, he is turned to solely 
in the case of material needs. Extremely characteristic is the 


belief of the Votiaks as described by an unknown author: 
" Inmar is, according to them, only a good spirit, who pro- 
tects their lives and gives them food and clothing, having 
nothing whatever to do with the mutual relations between 
mankind." 7 Thus, the Heaven god did not originally, in the 
view of the Finno-Ugric stocks, watch over the morality 
of the people, as the spirits of the dead were supposed 
to do. 

By the side of the male Heaven god, generally termed the 
" Father," the peoples by the Volga and the Ob speak in their 
sacrificial prayers of a female deity, the " Mother of heaven," 
regarded as the guardian-spirit of child-birth and as such 
later merged into the Virgin Mary. This " Mother of heaven," 
pictured in folk-tales at times as the wife of the Heaven god, 
and met with also among the Turco-Tatars, originates from 
pagan times. 8 

In sacrificing to the Heaven god, the peoples by the Volga 
and the Ob follow similar customs, previously common also to 
the surrounding peoples, of keeping the faces, both of the 
sacrificing priests and the sacrificial animal, turned in the direc- 
tion of the rising sun, contrary to the custom in the worship of 
the dead of turning in the opposite direction $ the Cheremiss 
and the Votiaks having also different expressions for the two 
ceremonies, i.e., " sacrificing upward " and " sacrificing down- 
ward." The sacrifice to the Heaven god must, as far as possi- 
ble, consist of a white animal. Where this is not possible, the 
Ostiaks place a white cloth over the animal's back. A feature 
of note is also that the sacrificial-tree of the Heaven god, 
must, as with other Nature gods, be a leaf or " white " tree, 
those of the dead being invariably coniferous, or " dark " 
trees. 9 Most often burnt offerings are offered up to the 
Heaven god, but there are traces of other methods having been 
used. As the smoke from the sacrifice could not reach the 
sky from the plains, the sacrifice was performed on a hill or 
other high place. In the oldest accounts of the Samoyed re- 


ligion it is stated that the Yuraks offered up white reindeer 
to Num on the highest mountains. When the animal was 
slaughtered, it was held, as during the rest of the ceremony, 
with its head turned to the east. The flesh was eaten uncooked. 
The skull, together with all other bones, was left on the place 
of sacrifice ; the first-named being generally stuck on a pole 
with its nose towards the east. 10 

In looking at the night sky, the attention of people was 
drawn to a certain fixed point, round which the heavens, as 
seen from the earth, seemed to revolve. This regular motion 
of the sky, which we know to be due to the movement of the 
earth round its axis in the opposite direction, awakened among 
primitive peoples the idea that the sky at this point, i.e., at the 
North Star, is affixed to some object bearing or supporting the 
heavens. For this reason, the Samoyeds (Turuhansk District) 
call the North Star the " nail of the sky," " round which the 
heavens revolve." " The ancient Finns had also a correspond- 
ing but now forgotten term, as proved by the name of the 
North Star, borrowed by the Lapps from the Finns, Bohi- 
navlle (" the nail of the north ") } its counterpart among the 
Esthonians being the Pohjanael. The connection of these 
beliefs with the sky is described by Holzmayer in the follow- 
ing words: " In the middle of the sky, or in the north, the 
heavens are affixed to a nail in such a manner that they are 
able to revolve round the nail, the revolving causing the 
movement of the stars. As the North Star is situated in the 
very centre, it is called the * nail of the north.'" 12 This nail 
is, at the same time, regarded as supporting the sky. Turi 
relates that the Lapps believe the Boahje-naste (" north 
nail," " north star ") to support the sky, and that when Arc- 
turus, supposed to be an archer, shoots down the Boahje-naste 
with his arrow on the last day, the heavens will fall, crushing 
the earth and setting fire to everything. 18 

The Lapps believed also, however, in a more reliable sup- 
port for the sky than a nail. Missionaries relate that the 


Lapps sacrificed to their highest god Veralden rade (" Ruler 
of the world ") so that " he should not let fall the sky," 
erecting at the altars a tree either split in two or forked nat- 
urally, or also, at times, a high pillar, called the " pillar of 
the world" (Veralden tshuold) for the god to "support the 
world with, and keep it in its present form and condition, 
that it might not grow old and fall from its former nature." 
The tree was besmeared with blood from the sacrifice. 1 * A 
"pillar of the world" of this description was seen by Leem 
in the vicinity of the Porsanger Fjord at an old site of sacri- 
fice, where there were two great stones and, on their eastern 
side, a very high square log with its lower end stuck in the 
ground. In the top of the log there was an iron nail. 15 That 
these pillars of the Lapps had a heavenly counterpart is 
shown by the fact that in some places, the name of the North 
Star is "pillar of the world" (Veralden tshuold). 16 It is 
probable that the Lapps obtained both their ideas and their 
sacrificial customs from the Scandinavians (Cf. Teutonic Ir- 
minsul, " world-pillar ") j the " nail " may be compared with 
the Scandinavian Veraldar nagli, the " world-nail." " The 
corresponding belief of the ancient Finns is found nowadays 
only in the phrase, known also to the Esthonians, and used 
of people living to a very old age, that these live " to be a 
pillar of the world " (Finnish Maailmanpatsas or Maasampa, 
Esthonian Ilmasamba). The Ostiaks, amongst whom this 
" pillar " was also known, and who even worshipped it as a 
deity, have, as we shall see, in this respect been under Turco- 
Tatar influence. 18 

Like the sky itself, the heavenly bodies and certain 
phenomena in the air were regarded as animated beings, al- 
though not all of them were the objects of worship. In Ostiak 
poetry " the Sun mother " and the " Moon old man " are 
often mentioned, but sacrifices to them are rare; only at 
Vasyugan was a piece of cloth with a ring attached offered up 
to the sun, when the latter had caused a sudden fainting fit. 1 " 


Among the Samoyeds, only the Yuraks, according to Lehtisalo, 
worship the sun, " the kindly eye of the heavens," and the 
moon, " the evil eye of the heavens," to which they even 
sacrifice at the New Year's Festival in July, " when the 
wild geese arrive again." A " shadow " (image) is made of 
them, similar in form to these bodies. Besmeared with 
the blood of the sacrifice, these images are set up on long 
poles. 20 

Much more general is the worship of the sun and the 
moon amongst the agricultural peoples. The Cheremiss and 
the Votiaks sacrifice white animals to the sun (" the Sun 
mother "), both at annually recurring ceremonies, and also for 
occasional reasons, e.g., when a long drought dries up the 
grass and ruins the harvest, or for certain sicknesses. During 
the prayers, the priest keeps his face towards the sun. 21 Why 
the Eastern Cheremiss should sacrifice animals to the moon 
(" the Moon mother ") is uncertain." A very important part 
is also played by " the rising and setting Sun god " and " the 
wandering Moon god " in the religion of the Mordvins. In 
honour of the former, public sacrificial festivals were held, 
but the Mordvins worshipped it at other times also, bowing 
whenever a ray of sunlight fell on the window. Sacrifices to 
the sun were set up in high places, so that the sun on rising 
could take possession of them. The Mordvins also took oath 
before the sun/ 3 Of sun-worship by the Finns, there are no 
reliable accounts. The custom of the East Karelians of going 
at dawn to the eastward slopes of their fields, to a " purified 
place," where they bowed three times, saying: " My dear sun, 
my provider, give peace, health, look over everything, watch 
over everything," may, however, be mentioned. 11 The new 
moon was also accorded a welcome by many Finno-Ugric 
peoples. The Mordvins say, like the Russians: " Be greeted, 
new moon j to me health, to thee a whole loaf." The silver 
and golden horns of the Moon god are also spoken of. 85 Ac- 
cording to Agricola, the Finns believed that at eclipses, the 


" animals " (kafeet) " ate up the moon," and lunar markings 
were explained by saying that Rahkoi " makes the moon black 
in parts." In Northern Finland " the man in the moon " is 
called Rahkonen. 

More apparent is the worship of sun and moon among the 
Scandinavian Lapps, on whose magic drums they are often 
pictured. When the Lapps sacrificed to the sun they made a 
wooden image, one end of which they formed like a globe 
and furnished with thorns, or they used only a large, wooden 
ring decorated with figures ; these objects were besmeared 
with the blood of the sacrifice. The animals offered up to the 
" Sun virgin," were always female, and where possible, white. 
At the very least, a white thread had to be sewn through the 
right ear of the sacrificial reindeer. When the sacrifice had 
been killed, the Lapps cut a piece from all its quarters, thread- 
ing them on to a switch bent into a ring. This object they then 
hung up on a high sacrificial-board behind the tent. The 
Lapps also sacrificed to the sun by taking three switches of 
birch, plaiting them together up to about half-way, where 
they bound a tape. These switches they besmeared with blood 
from the sacrifice. Afterwards a ring was made of a birch- 
bough and laid in the middle of the board as an image of the 
sun, and inside this a small piece of the lungs, heart, tongue 
and lips of the sacrifice. On the ring they set up the blood- 
smeared switches. The bones of the sacrifice were also often 
placed within a ring on the offering-board. M 

Like the Norwegian peasants, the Lapps living in Norway 
had a custom of besmearing their doors with butter when the 
sun, after the darkness of winter, first threw its rays on them 
from the horizon. 27 Another annual sacrifice was performed 
at the lightest period of the summer. On Midsummer's Eve 
the Norwegian Lapps hung up a ring of leaves or grass, 
called the " sun-ring," in honour of the " Sun virgin." A 
porridge of meal, mixed with butter, " sun-porridge," was 
also cooked and eaten. On beginning this sacrificial meal, 


eaten by the men together with their wives, the Lapps bowed 
their knees and prayed the sun to "pour its merciful rays 
over the reindeer, and everything else they needed to live on." 
After the meal, they did the same, praying for " a merry 
milking-summer and good luck for the reindeer herds." 28 
Besides reindeer, sheep and goats could be used for sun- 
sacrifices. At times even a spinning-wheel and flax were set 
up on the altar to the Sun goddess. 2 ' 

Magic acts were also at times connected with the prayers. 
Missionaries relate that Lapps who had gone astray during the 
day among the mountains, would go on their 
knees and call to the sun not to set, using at the 
same time a wooden object with a handle, in 
which a round hole had been cut. This object 
they held up in their hands against the sun, so 
that it might shine through it. 80 

Without doubt, much in the sun-worship of 
the Lapps may be referred to the corresponding 
customs of their Scandinavian neighbours. Thus, 
for example, the " sun-porridge " and the spinning-wheel 
and the flax are certain proofs of foreign influence. 

The Lapps turned to the moon as well as to the sun with 
worship. The Christmas new moon, in especial, called " the 
holy moon," was worshipped with separate ceremonies. Im- 
mediately the new moon had risen, complete silence was ob- 
served in the Lapp home, the women being forbidden to spin, 
the men to perform any noisy labour. As an offering to the 
moon a ring of copper was placed in the roof-hole of the tent 
so that the moon could shine through this into the tent. If 
for any reason this old custom was broken, it was believed that 
the moon became angry, and had then to be placated by sacri- 
flces. s> ' In some districts it was the custom to sacrifice a half- 
year-old reindeer calf, the hide of which was hung up in the 
tent in honour of the moon. Of the reasons for this worship, 
an unknown author writes the following: " The Lapps hang 


up a ring of copper tied to a copper chain in the roofs of their 
tents before the door, in such a manner that the rays of the 
moon can fall on the ring of copper; believing, i.e., that the 
moon can help the reindeer-cows to give birth easily to calves 
and also protect them from all injuries during the time they 
are with calf." 32 

Besides the Christmas new moon, the Scandinavian Lapps 
formerly worshipped with special ceremonies the February- 
moon also, which they called Kuova-manno. Hogstrom re- 
lates how he heard from an old Lapp woman in Swedish 
Lapmark that in earlier days it had been the custom at a 
certain time in February (probably the time of the new moon) 
to bind hay, used by the Lapps in their foot-wear and mittens, 
to the horns of the reindeer. The Kuova-manno was then 
adjured with alarm and din to eat. 33 Certain marks of honour 
have also in other districts in the northern lands fallen to the 
first two months in the year, e.g., in Iceland the first {thorr'i) 
and the second {goa, Lapp kuova) new moons were wor- 

These, the coldest months of the year, are also mentioned 
in a Finnish tale, in which January is called Iso tammi ("the 
great oak ") and February Pikku tammi (" the little oak "), 
the latter saying to the former: " If I were in thy place I 
would freeze the foal in its mother's womb, the hands of 
the housewife to the dough, and the feet of the swine to the 
ground, but though I freeze in the night, water runs from my 
eye during the day." A similar myth seems to have existed 
among the Teutons. In one of their proverbs " the little 
Horn" (das kleine Horn = February) says to the "great" 
(das grosse Horn = January) : " hatt ich die Macht wie du, 
liess ich erf rieren das Kalb in der Kuh." 35 

When the Scandinavian Lapps sacrificed to the moon, they 
acted in the same manner as when sacrificing to the sunj the 
sacrificial animals were also similar, never black and never 
males. The magic act mentioned earlier, appeared also in 


their moon-cult, the wooden object, however, being furnished 
with a smaller hole for the moon to shine through, for the 
purpose of preventing the moon from withdrawing 
its light during the long, dark winter-time.** 

Among the Baltic Finns and the Lapps, the 
Thunder god had waxed more and more power- 
ful, until at the close of the pagan period in Fin- 
land he had pushed aside even the Heaven godj 
this development has, however, in the light of 

comparative research, taken place under foreign !G " ?* 

■ n Moon Ring 


Like the North Siberian peoples in general, the Samoyeds 
regard the Thunderer as a great bird, in the company of which 
the soul of the shaman can travel over sea and water. Sacri- 
fices to this Thunder bird have not been noted, excepting 
among the Yuraks, who sacrifice to it during the before-men- 
tioned New Year's Festival at about the time of the first 
thunderstorms, making then out of birch-wood, a goose-like im- 
age of the Thunder god. 37 In some districts the Ostiaks also 
believe the Thunderer to be a " black, loudly-screaming bird," 
but call it also " the winged old man," to the honour of whom, 
in the more southern districts, they devour " thunder-por- 
ridge," when the first thunder is heard, bowing in the direction 
in which the thunder travelled. 38 We know also the Siryans 
to have greeted the first thunder of the Spring. 39 The Vo- 
tiaks call thunder " the Thunder mother," but have no definite 
idea of its form. In their sacred groves, they sacrifice horses, 
as the Cheremiss do, in order that the Thunderer may spare 
their fields from hail and give fruitful rains. The last-named 
speak of two separate beings: the "Lightning god" and the 
" Thunder god "j a common sacrifice is, however, made to 
them. The so-called " summer lightning " they believe to 
ripen the crops. A magic means of stilling a thunderstorm is 
used by the Eastern Cheremiss, who, during the storm, throw 
an axe into the yard, sacrificing at the same time the wool of 


a white sheep in the fire, and praying that the thunder should 
pass by.* 

The Mordvins have a Thunder god with anthropomorphic 
characteristics. The. Moksha call him, like the phenomenon 
itself, At'am (a derivative of at'a, " grandfather," " old 
man"), the rainbow At'amjonks (jonks, "bow," "cross- 
bow ") . The Erza, who worshipped thunder in the communal 
sacrificial feasts, and at oaks or other trees struck by lightning, 
call the Thunderer Pur'gine, a word derived from the Lithu- 
anian Perkunas. 41 Probably through the Letts this word has 
travelled also to the Esthonians, who called the thunderbolt, 
according to an old lexicon of the year 1660, perckun no hi. 
Together with the old name of the Scandinavian Thunder god 
Fjorgynn, the Finnish Perkele (" devil ") comes from the 
same root. The Esthonians' kou, kouk (" thunder ") must be 
regarded as cognate with the Lithuanian kaukas (" ghost ") 
and kauk-spennis (" thunderbolt n ). The Norse Thor has 
been recognized in the battle-cry of the Esthonians about 
1200 a.d.: "Tar abitha! " ("Tar help! ") and in the name 
Tuuri, which appears in a Karelian magic song. It is uncertain 
whether Turisas (? "father Tur"), who, according to 
Agricola, " conferred victory in war," is also the same god. 

Like all the other peoples dwelling around, the Esthonians 
(Ai, "old man"; Ai'a-hoog, " thunder-shower "j Aikene, 
" the little old man," " thunder ") and the Finns (Is'anen, 
" the little father "; Ukko, Ukkonen, " grandfather," " thun- 
der ") have regarded the Thunderer as an old man. Descrip- 
tive names are the Finnish Pitk'ainen, Pitkamoinen (from 
fitka, u long "), the Esthonian Pitkne, Piker, etc.* 2 

The cult of the Thunder god played so important a part 
in the life of the Finns, that we find Agricola describing it as 
follows: " Ukko's goblet was drunk at the sowing of the spring 
seed; Ukko's chest was also brought, and then maid and wife 
drank to excess, and, moreover, many shameful things were 
done there, as was both heard and seen." This god was wor- 


shipped because it " brought thunder showers and the year's 
harvest." Dating from. Agricola's time (c. 1550) is a petition 
still preserved, written in Swedish by peasants from the east 
of Finland, in which the fine for drinking " Thordns gilde " 
is described. " Ukko's chests " (Ukon vakat) are also men- 
tioned in the report of an ecclesiastical inspection held in 
1670. Vestiges of the sacrificial feast connected with the 
same, described by Agricola, have been noted in quite recent 
times. The " chests " were made of birch-bark, and sacrifices 
of food intended for Ukko were placed in them and carried 
to " Ukko's mountain." For the sacrifice itself the best sheep 
in the flock was taken and slaughtered on a given day. Its 
flesh was boiled and portions of the meat, together with other 
victuals, were put into the chests, and along with a large quan- 
tity of beer and spirits, taken to the holy mountain, where they 
were left untouched until the next day. Ukko was supposed 
to eat his share during the night, and in the morning what 
remained of the victuals was eaten by the worshippers, part 
of the liquors, however, being poured on to the ground to 
ensure a summer free from drought.* 3 These festivals have 
been held in Finland very nearly to our time. The most 
detailed accounts come from Ingria, where the Ukko festival 
was held on the days of St. Peter and St. Elias (twenty-ninth 
June, twentieth July, old style). Sacrificial beer was poured 
on to the ground to Ukko to invoke fruit-giving rains, or the 
ground was sprinkled with water with magic ceremonies. 4 * 
Sacrifices of bulls are reported from Esthonia in an account 
of the year 1644, which contains the following prayer: " Piker, 
we, praying, give a bull, two-horned, four-footed, for the 
sake of the ploughing and the sowing: stalks of brass, ears 
of gold. Push elsewhere the black clouds, over the great 
swamp, the high forest, the wide plain; air of mead, rains of 
honey to our ploughmen, sowers! Holy Piker, look after 
our fields: fine straw beneath, fine ears above, fine grain 
within! »*° 



Agricola mentions also the wife of the Thunder god, 
Rauni, whose name occurs in a song as Roonikka, and was also 
known to the Finnish Lapps as Ravdna. In the same manner 
as to the Thunder god himself, the Lapps sacrificed reindeer 
to Ravdna, most often in grottoes in the mountain consecrated 
to her. Just as, among many peoples, the oak was the favour- 
ite tree of the Thunder god, the rowan was Ravdna's 
favourite, growing in her grottoes. 46 In Finnish folk-poetry 
also the rowan and its berries are described as being " holy." 
The name of the Thunder goddess seems originally to have 
applied to the tree, being, as such, a loan-word, from the 
Scandinavian (Icelandic reynir } Swedish ronn)." 

Fig. 8. Lapp Sacrificial Board of the Thunder-God 

According to Rheen 

In the Finnish magic songs the Thunder god, like the 
Scandinavian Thor, is given a hammer as a weapon. Armed 
in the same manner was the Tora-galles or Hora-galles 
(" Thor-man ") of the Scandinavian Lapps, who was pic- 
tured on the magic drums with one or two hammers in his 
hand. In their own language, the Lapps called the Thunder 
god Tiermes, who had a " bow " (tiermaz-juks, " rainbow ") 


and an " arrow " as arms. With either his hammer, or with 
his bow and arrow, the Thunder god was regarded as driving 
away evil spirits who everywhere hide themselves at his ap- 
proach. When the Lapps, to frighten away these beings, in- 
voked thunder, they beat on their drums and shouted. At 
times, Hora-galles had as assistant a man-servant. 48 

The missionary Rheen describes how the Swedish Lapps 
sacrificed to the Thunder god: "When the magic drum has 
indicated that a sacrifice to Thor must be made, the reindeer- 
bull chosen as a sacrifice is bound fast behind the tent, where 
the women are not allowed to go. The animal is killed by 
being stabbed with a knife in its heart. The blood is pre- 
served to be smeared on the image of Thor. As many rein- 
deer as the Lapp sacrifices, so many images of Thor does he set 
up. The images are prepared out of the stumps of birch trees, 
the root being made into the head, the trunk into the rest of the 
body} a hammer is placed in its hand. After the slaughtering 
of the votive reindeer, the Lapps build up behind their tents 
an offering-board, about three yards high, setting pretty birch 
branches around it. These are also strewn on the ground from 
the tent to the board. On this board the blood-besmeared 
images of Thor are set up, certain marks resembling crosses 
being also made on the latter. Behind the images, the horns 
and skull and the feet are set up. At the same time a small 
piece of flesh is cut from each quarter and placed in a little 
wooden case, into which also a little fat is poured, on the dais 
before the image. In the right ear of the reindeer chosen for 
sacrifice to Thor, a grey woollen thread must be sewn as a 
mark." * 9 

At times the Lapps offered up, besides reindeer, large 
wooden hammers to the Thunder god. Forbus says that a 
hammer, two fathoms long and beautifully carved, was made 
in his honour and smeared with blood from the sacrifice j so 
S. Kildal relates that such hammers were laid in mountain 
grottoes. 81 The Finnish Lapps regarded clefts in the moun- 


tains as suitable places in which to sacrifice to the Thun- 

The Wind god is called by the Votiaks in their prayers, 
simply " the Wind." A goose is sacrificed to it in the sown 
fields at the time of the general field-sacrifices, and it is ap- 
pealed to not to blow overmuch, spoiling in that way the 
seed, but to blow mildly over the sown fields. The colour of 
the votive goose is not particularized, but it is not seemly to 
sacrifice to the wind anything black or white. In some places 
it is the practice to sprinkle blood in the air. Occasional sacri- 
fices are also made to the wind, particularly during storms. 
Besides this cult in the fields for the sake of the seed, it is 
worshipped at times in the stock-yards, to the intent that the 
violent autumn storms of the steppes should not destroy 
the straw-roofed cattle-sheds or do injury to the cattle. 63 
For similar purposes, the Cheremiss and the Mordvins sacri- 
fice to the " Mother wind " or " Wind mother." The last- 
mentioned say: " When the children of Wind mother are 
noisy, the storm begins." M 

The Esthonians say that the Wind god dwells in the forest 
on a shaded branch, whence it sets the wind blowing; accord- 
ing to its dwelling-place, it is called Metsmees (" Forest 
man ") . A more general name is, however, " Wind mother," 
who " weeps " when the rain falls during a storm, and 
" dances " in whirlwinds.™ At the sowing of flax, doves or 
a cock are sacrificed to the "Wind mother." 59 In Finnish 
magic prayers the appeal is to the wind itself, though, some- 
times, also to the "Wind woman," etc. According to Agri- 
cola, Ilmarinen was, later, worshipped as the Wind god, 
"giving calm and bad weather, and furthering travellers." 
A figure of Ilmaris, " the ruler of the storm, and of bad 
weather," has been found also on the magic drum of a Finnish 
Lapp. 61 Usually, the Lapps called the Wind god the " Wind 
man," in the cult of whom one can discern Scandinavian in- 
fluence. The missionary Randulf describes the Wind god 




of the Lapps as follows: "Their third great god the Lapps 

I call the 'Wind man/ who is identical with Aeolus. They 

; picture him (on their magic drums) with a spade in his right 

I hand, with which spade he shovels back the wind to blow. 

This god they call on both when out with their reindeer on 

' the mountains for the stilling of a wind harmful to their herds, 

» and when, while fishing out at sea, a storm arises that places 

• them in danger of their lives. They promise then to lay 
I sacrifices on his altar." ss 

' At the sacrifices to the Wind god, a peculiar bundle of 

I twigs, sometimes formed of birch (Finnish tuulenpesa, "the 
nest of wind"), had to be set up at the sacrificial altar, and 

', smeared with blood from the sacrifice. Boats and spades were 

I also offered up to him." 

I Randulf speaks of a kind of wind-magic, formerly invoked 

i very often by the Lapps: " When they are angered with any- 

I one, they call to the Wind god to blow, binding this appeal 

• by incantations into three bundles. On opening the first of 
I these, a moderate storm arises ; with the second, a storm strong 
\ enough to make sailing dangerous even for a vessel with a 
; main-sail reefed half-way ; but when they open the third, a 
I shipwreck is the inevitable result." This magic means of in- 
| voking wind, reports of which are found as early, as the thir- 
\ teenth century, and which was used both by the Finns and the 
I Esthonians, is obviously adopted from the Scandinavians." 

t The wind is personified also among the Ugrians, the Ostiaks 

I calling it the " Wind old man," to whom huntsmen sacrifice 

J at Vasyugan a small piece of white cloth at a birch-tree, to 

'; secure good luck for themselves in hunting.* 1 

I The agricultural peoples sacrifice also to the Frost god. 

I The Votiaks sacrifice a grey lamb or a duck to the "rime- 

t frost," when during the cold spring nights the rime appears 

[ on the fields. In some districts, an annual sacrifice is even 

I made at Easter-time. 6S In their prayers, the Cheremiss speak 

J of the " Frost man " and the " Frost woman." But despite 




these names, they are not regarded as anthropomorphic beings. 
Some districts call the morning-frost the " Frost man," and 
the evening-frost the " Frost woman." They sacrifice a grey 
ram to the " man," and a grey sheep to the " woman." Sacri- 
fices are made to them both annually and also at other times 
for accidental reasons. The appeal in the prayers is for the 
frost to refrain from spoiling the seed. 63 

The Mordvins had a custom of placing porridge for the 
" Frost man " in the smoke-outlet on the Thursday before 
Easter. The prayer recited on this occasion runs: " For thee 
have we prepared porridge, protect our spring-sowings! " 
The Russians had an absolutely identical custom. 61 

There are no reliable accounts of sacrifices to the Frost god 
among the Baltic Finns, although the frost is personified in 
the Finnish magic songs. But the most Southern Lapps in 
Scandinavia worshipped the " Frost man," who is said to be 
" the god of weather, snow and ice," and to whom they sacri- 
ficed, so that " the ice should not harm the reindeer and that 
the blizzard should cease." 6S The word, recurring in the 
name, which means " rime-frost in the grass " and is found 
only in the more southern dialects, points to a connection with 
the customs of the agricultural peoples. 

With the gods of the air, the " Cloud mother " of the 
Cheremiss should also be reckoned, being remembered at the 
great sacrificial feasts with a drink-offering, which is poured 
into the fire. The clouds are living beings, according to the 
Cheremiss. " If they were not alive, how could they move 
about and wander whither they will? " they say. " One can 
call them towards oneself, or beg them to travel away to 
other neighbourhoods." 89 The " twilight " they worshipped 
only by not performing any work, or at least any work that 
causes a din, after sunset, lest the " twilight " should punish 
them. A similar belief exists among the Volga Tatars. 6 " 


FIRE is the friend of man," say the Cheremiss, " it warms 
the house and cooks the food, but if it has reason to be 
angered, it jumps from the fireplace and burns up the house 
and the village." One cause for the fire's anger, is the spitting 
into it by any person, another the " wounding " of it by any 
sharp instrument, another the stirring of it with an " unclean " 
stick. Further, if one throws the wood on to the hearth, or 
addresses the fire with evil words, it may become vexed. 
Probably, from the very earliest times, fire was regarded as 
something pure that cannot endure defilement. The most 
common punishment to befall the culprit is a kind of skin- 
disease. The fire must then be appeased by small sacrifices. 
The Cheremiss use the following words: " Forgive me, ( Fire 
mother,' perhaps I have spat in thee or wounded or defiled 
thee. Make me well again." The worst punishment the fire 
is capable of is the breaking loose of fire. At such times, 
the Cheremiss go round the fire, sacrificing to the " Fire 
mother " a black hen, or milk from a black cow. During this, 
the " Fire mother " is prayed to not to destroy the village, and 
also in the future to protect the people from loss through its 
agency. 1 

The Ostiaks call the fire " Fire girl " or " Fire woman " 
in their prayers, this deity being as easily wounded as the 
Fire god of the Cheremiss and the other Volga peoples. To 
appease it, the Ostiaks sacrifice to the fire victuals, cloths of 
red or a fire-like colour, and pieces of stuff. Despite these 
sacrifices, intended as clothing for the " Fire girl " or the 
" Fire mother," it is merely the animated fire itself that is 


the object of worship. 2 The Mordvins say: " the Fire mother 
' flames,' " the Ostiaks speak of " the many-tongued Fire 
mother," and in a Cheremiss prayer the passage occurs: " Fire 
mother, thou whose smoke is long and whose tongue is sharp." 8 

The Cheremiss speak also, at times, of the soul (ort) of 
the fire, which disappears if water is poured over the fire, a 
method of putting it out which is regarded as unseemly, 
among them the wood being merely drawn to one side so 
that the fire goes out of its own accord.* This " soul " of the 
fire can appear to men in some shape or other. According to 
the Finns, the <e Ruler " of the fire appeared in the night as 
glittering sparks before some accident. The Esthonians be- 
lieve that the " Fire mother " appears in the shape of an 
animal as a warning of a coming fire; a rt Fire cock " or " Fire 
cat " has been seen to move over the roof of a house shortly 
before a destructive fire." 

In the tales of the Ostiaks, the " Fire spirit " can even take 
on human form. A man who had used the fire badly, saw 
the " Fire girl " sitting naked and covered with wounds on a 
stone. According to another tale, every hearth has its own 
a Fire maiden "j these can visit one another, tell each other 
their experiences and ask advice of one another. 6 Similar 
tales are met with among the Turco-Tatars. 

The holiness of the domestic hearth is seen from the custom 
of bearing fire, burning brands, or ashes from the old home to 
the new. According to an earlier view, the fire should never 
be allowed to go out, and even today the Cheremiss light 
their sacrificial fires with brands from the hearth. Were the 
fire to go out of its own accord, it was deemed an omen of 
misfortune. The people seem, however, to have believed 
that the power of the fire diminishes, if it is allowed to burn 
too long. The Volga Finns had therefore a habit of renewing 
their fires once a year by lighting a *' new fire," or a " wood 
fire,'* by rubbing two dry sticks against one another. The 
" new fire " is supposed to contain a specially purifying magic 

FIRE 237 

power. For this reason, the Cheremiss extinguish all their 
village hearth fires on an agreed date in the hottest part of the 
summer, at the close of the " evil time," draw forth a " new 
fire," and make a fire of logs somewhere on the edge of the 
village, over which the people have to jump; the cattle, even, 
are driven through it. To render this last more easy, the site 
for the fire is chosen at the gateway to some meadow, the 
gate itself, having for reasons of magic, branches of rowan 
bound to it. From this log-fire, which generally burns for 
two or three days, every householder carries home " new 
fire " to his hearth, smoking out his stockyard at the same 
time. 7 

For occasional reasons also a similar fire may be made. 
The Mordvins sometimes lit such fires even at the forty days' 
feast for the dead, at which those present cleansed themselves 
by jumping over the fire. 8 A more widespread custom is to 
use this method of purification during the course of some 
epidemic in the neighbourhood. At such times a furrow is 
also ploughed round the village, or a plough carried round 
it. That also the Spring and Midsummer-Eve bonfires of 
the Finns originally possessed a prophylactic significance ap- 
pears from an account from Ingria, according to which the bon- 
fires were intended to be made on the pasture land visited by 
the cows. 9 

The stocks living along the Volga have further a custom 
of worshipping fire as an intermediary between the gods 
and men. Sacrifices thrown into the fire are not always in- 
tended for the " Fire mother," but it is intended that she 
should hand on these offerings to their true recipients. In the 
sacred groves of the Cheremiss one can hear the priests say to 
the fire: " Bear with thy smoke our sacrifices to God, and re- 
cite to him our prayers! " As a reward, a sacrifice is then 
given to the fire also. 10 These beliefs and customs are un- 
doubtedly, however, like so much else in the fire cult of the 
Finno-Ugric peoples, of foreign origin, probably Iranian. A 


more original custom is that of the Lapps, as described by 
Randulf : " To none of their idols do the Lapps offer up 
burnt sacrifices, i.e., they do not destroy their sacrifices by fire, 
excepting those to the sun, which are burnt up to show the 
heat and fire of the sun, and are made on a particular stone, 
consecrated for the purpose." " 

In their magic songs the Finns describe how mankind came 
to obtain fire. In some, the origin of fire is said to be from 
heaven, as appears from the following words : " Where has 
fire been cradled, where rocked the flame? — Over there on 
the navel of the sky, on the peak of the famous mountain." 
Its birth there is also pictured in the following: " Fire struck 
Ismaroinen (Ilmarinen), fire flashed Vainamoinen, he struck 
fire without a flint, tinderlesss he secured it, struck it with a 
black snake, with a mottled serpent, on the open plain of 
water, on the wide-spread waves." In a variation the Thun- 
derer appears as the giver of fire: "Pitkamoinen struck fire, 
among the rocks of the sea, from a many coloured serpent." 12 
That the serpent here is the lightning is obvious. 

In another song it is described how a net is woven to catch 
a " red salmon " in the bowels of which fire is bound. That 
this tale is very old is shown by the method of preparing 
the net as described in the Finnish song: " A net was made of 
lime-bark, it was woven of heather," or " the net was woven of 
bast, of juniper threads was it spun." 13 An interesting 
counterpart to this tale is to be found among certain North 
American tribes on the North- West coast in which fire is also 
found in the bowels of a salmon." The colour of the salmon 
has perhaps, in the fantasy of these people, awakened 
the idea of connecting it with fire. 



AMONG the non-agricultural Finno-Ugric peoples, of- 
ferings to the earth are rare. The Ugrians often men- 
tion in their folk-poetry " the black or hairy Earth mother," 
but sacrifice to her only when suffering from certain sicknesses, 
believed to come from the earth. 1 Much more important 
is the " Earth mother " among the stocks living along the 
Volga; these sacrifice to her black animals, most often cows arid 
sheep, the bones of which are carefully buried in the earth 
" so that the earth shall be able to produce corn and grass." 
The blood is also allowed to run into the earth. Besides 
annual sacrifices, additional ones are performed when, for 
example, the fields do not grow in spite of rain. When sacri- 
ficing to the earth, the Cheremiss say: "Eat, Earth mother, 
and give us corn." * The following prayer has been taken 
down among the Votiaks: "O Earth mother, we thank thee 
for that thou hast nourished us during the past year, be not 
grudging now either with thy gifts, produce corn for us also 
during this summer." These last also pray that the earth 
might not be offended, when men are obliged to wound her 
with their ploughs. Very late in the autumn, sacrifices may 
not be made to the earth, as then, the Votiaks say: " the earth 
sleeps." * Equally primitive is the " Earth mother " of the 
Mordvins, who is turned to in the following words: "That 
which we sow in thee, allow to come up." * The Mountain 
Cheremiss worship also the " Yard mother " and the Mordvins 
the " Field mother " and the " Meadow mother." " 


" Earth-luck or field-luck " can be stolen from another by 
bearing to one's own field a sod or a little earth from the field 
of some one more fortunate. When the Siryans do this, they 
say: " Good luck, follow me, give me a good subsistence." 
As soon as the Cheremiss sees that his " field-luck " has been 
stolen, he finds out who has robbed him of this. Should he 
discover that a field which formerly produced a scanty harvest 
has improved, he believes he has found the culprit and goes in 
the dusk to carry the lost " field-luck " back with him in a 
bark-shoe, saying to it: "Let the corn grow, do not go away 
if someone tries to steal thee, but remain always in my fields." T 
The Chuvashes " steal earth " with wedding-like ceremonies, 
choosing even a living " bridegroom " for the Earth mother. 8 
This custom would seem to have been known also among the 
Votiaks." According to Mordvinian folk-lore, these were afraid 
that even in the hoof of a horse, the " Field mother " might 
be taken to a strange field. 10 

Coincidently with these material views, the Cheremiss talk 
also of the <{ i soul ' (ort) of the earth," which may disappear 
from the tilled earth, taking the fruitfulness of this away 
with it. 11 Like the Votiaks, they believe this also of the 
" field-soul." When this happens, it is essential to discover 
whither the " field-soul " has gone, and if possible, procure 
its return. The Votiaks also call the productive power of the 
field, which can free itself from the latter, the " corn-soul," 
and they believe that this can, like the soul of a human being, 
become visible in the shape of a little, grey butterfly. 12 

In the course of the author's sojourn among the Eastern 
Votiaks, he had the opportunity of hearing how the vanished 
" soul " of a cornfield is sought after. Besides the actual 
"seer," six other persons are chosen for this purpose, three 
youths and three maidens, who, clad in white, ride round the 
village fields on white horses, to seek the above-mentioned 
butterfly. Having found this, the whole suite returns well- 
pleased, singing and playing a song special to this occasion, to 


the sacrificial site on the edge of the field, where the oldest 
men in the village have, meanwhile, slaughtered a white 
sheep as a sacrifice. After the completion of the sacrificial 
meal, during which the soul-butterfly is kept enclosed in a 
white cloth, the one whom the butterfly had most obviously 
neared during the search, receives the " corn-soul " into his 
care, taking it to his granary for a time, after which the butter- 
fly is again ceremoniously escorted to the cornfield and there 
set free. After the recovery of the " corn-soul," it is believed 
that the badly-grown corn will improve. 13 

The " soul " of the corn can easily develop into a separate 
deity of corn. In the " Corn mother " of the Mordvins, to 
whom a duck of a yellow, or corn-resembling, colour is sacri- 
ficed, there are already noticeable signs of a change into an 
anthropomorphic goddess. But in no case need one be un- 
certain as to the origin of this goddess, for though the " Corn 
mother" appears in a popular lyric as singing -songs in the 
festive attire of a Mordvin woman, she goes on to speak of 
herself thus : " I was sown in the morning twilight, reaped in 
the evening twilight, thrown into the granary in order to be 
brewed into small beer at Easter, and baked into pastries at 
Christmas." " 

That the corn-seed as such was worshipped appears from a 
Votiak custom connected with the feast of the spring seed. 
After having sowed the first measure of oats in his field, the 
Votiak farmer fills his measure again, sets it on the ground 
before him, and, addressing the measure of seed, prays, with 
a loaf in his hand, for a good harvest. To assist the growth 
of the crops, magic is also used in this ceremony. Into the 
first measure, besides the seed, hard-boiled eggs are placed. 
Whilst sowing, the farmer flings these also into the air, where 
they are caught amid much competition by young girls. 
Lucky the one who gathers most in her lap, as this is regarded 
as a good omen. Should the gatherers of the eggs often trip 
or fall, it is regarded as a sign that the grain will also bend 


over during the summer on account of the heaviness of the ears. 
The sowing of eggs in this manner is an old custom common to 
all the East European and many other peoples, and one can 
discern in it a wish expressed in terms of magic, that the seed 
sown should give grain of the size and the agreeable taste of 
hen's eggs, a wish often expressed also in prayers. 15 

Other means of magic, for the growth of the corn and the 
bringing forth of fruitful rains, are connected also with the 
spring seed festival of the Cheremiss. After the offering up 
of sacrifices at a " pure spot " in the fields, the people gather 
closely together, holding their shirts or their blouses stretched 
out before them, while the sacrificing priest sows oats over 
them. The one who receives the biggest share of the seed 
as his part will reap the biggest harvest in the autumn. It 
is, further, customary to sprinkle water over the crowd " in 
order to ensure warm and refreshing rains during the 

summer." ie 

The Votiaks sacrifice early in the spring " to the honour 
of the grass." At a spot where the bare earth first showed 
through the melting snow of the past winter, porridge in a 
dish is laid on three such places. In these porridge-dishes hay 
and a spoon are placed. During the ceremony prayer is made 
to Inmar for a good harvest of hay. The Votiaks living in 
the Glazov District sacrifice at the same time a white bull, the 
tail of which is cleaned of hair and soaked in water until it 
becomes tough. It is then taken by one of the young men 
who, pressing his chin on his breast, waves it behind him, bel- 
lowing meanwhile like a bull. This youth, who is called the 
" bull-calf," is offered home-distilled spirits to drink by some 
of the surrounding crowd, while others again try to prevent 
him from drinking it. The " bull-calf " becomes incensed at 
this and charges at the crowd, waving the tail behind him, 
pursuing the flying people. 17 

A perfect counterpart to the Russian Polevik (field-spirit) 
is the anthropomorphic " Meadow man " of the Votiaks, who 



is supposed to be of the size of a child, but has the power, like 
the forest spirit, of becoming longer or shorter according to 
the length of the grass. For this reason it is difficult to see 
the spirit. It is said to be clad in a white garment, and to 
live chiefly in the pastures, where it looks after and protects 
the animals. The only sacrifice to this spirit is one when the 
cattle are first let out to pasture, offered up with the words: 
" Protect the cattle well, follow them nicely to the meadow, 
do not give them into the power of the beasts of prey.'* 18 

The Baltic Finns doubtless also, as an agricultural people, 
worshipped the " Earth mother," who appears in the folklore 
of both the Finns and the Esthonians. In the Finnish magic 
songs, the " Field old woman," the " Meadow old woman," 
and others, are spoken of. That the " Earth mother " re- 
ceived here a black sheep as sacrifice, is indicated by the belief, 
that, if a field produces too little, the milk of a black sheep 
must be sacrificed to it. 1 * The " Earth bridegroom " men- 
tioned in many poems may be a relic of some ancient ceremony 
in which the " Earth mother " was honoured with a wedding. 
At the Ingrian festival of the Thunder god, a song was sung of 
some deity of vegetation, called Sampsa or Pellervo (from 
pelto, " field "), in the absence of whom nothing could grow. 
The " Winter son " was first sent after him, who driving with 
his wind-horse, caused only disaster, and was, therefore, 
killed} the " Summer son " finally succeeding in bringing 
Sampsa. In Finland this god was represented as being con- 
veyed from an island, sleeping upon a corn-ship, with his 
mother as his wife. These ideas seem to emanate from the 
Scandinavian cult of Frey. The name Sampsa (a Teutonic 
loan-word, German Sitnse or Semse t "bulrush") signifies a 
species of fodder-grass {Scirpis sylvaticus, the wood club- 
rush), one of the earliest products of the spring, which is 
gathered for the cattle when the snow melts, and the roots of 
which are readily eaten by children. 20 

According to Agricola, the Karelians worshipped deities of 


the different kinds of grain: Rongoteus who "gave rye"; 
Pellon Pekko (the "Pekko of the fields") who "furthered 
the growth of barley "j Virankannos who " tended the oats "j 
Egres who " created peas, beans, and turnips, and brought 
forth cabbages, flax and hemp "; Kondos who " reclaimed land 
and tilled fields." Of these names, the first is to be found in 
several old songs, as Runkateivas or Rukotivo, the name being 
regarded as a Teutonic loan-word (cf. Icelandic rugr, " rye "; 
tivar, " gods ") . Later the Rye god is associated with St. 
Stephen (Ruki-tehvana or -tahvana, " rye-Stephen ") ; in 
a magic prayer Rukotivo appears beside St. Stephen as the 
" ruler of horses " (cf . Halmstaffan, " straw-Stephen " in the 
Christmas customs among the Swedes). 21 Agras or Agroi is 
known even today to the people, who call by that name two 
turnips growing together. When a double turnip was found, 
it had to be carried by itself, on the shoulders, or in a basket 
of bark, to the turnip-cellar. On the way, one had to fall 
three, or in places, even nine times on one's knees or flat on 
to the ground, as though one were tottering under the weight 
of some too heavy burden, and each time one had to shout: 
" I cannot bear it, holy Agroi, oh, how heavy it is! " In the 
prayers recited at the turnip-cellar, a good turnip year was 
asked for. 22 

Originally, Agroi was not only the deity of turnips, but the 
god of twins in general. Ceremonies resembling the above 
are also performed by the Votiaks when they find a double 
ear of grain in the fields. Gavrilov relates that the custom was 
to hang the ear over a stick, round which clean, white linen 
was wound, and then bear it by two men to an empty chest 
in the granary, the men acting during the journey as though 
they bore something heavy. Spectators and passers-by had to 
be avoided on the way. If this was done, one became rich 
little by little, said the Votiaks." 

Pekko, the god of barley, was worshipped by the orthodox 
Esthonians under the name of Peko, his image being prepared 



in wax and preserved as the common property of the village, 
in each farm in turn for the duration of a year. The feast 
of Peko was held in the spring, when vegetation awakes to 
life. Before Whitsuntide, each worshipper of Peko had to 
bring corn, from which Peko's host prepared festival-beer. 
On the eve of Whitsuntide, after sunset, the worshippers 
gathered, bringing food with them, in a room, in the corner of 
which Peko stood on a beer-barrel surrounded by burning wax 
candles. On separate sides of the corner beer- vessels and 
loaves of bread were spread in rows along the walls. In the 
front row of the kneeling congregation the host of the feast 
and his assistants grouped themselves. After all had prayed, 
each for himself, the host took a little beer in a cup from each 
vessel, pouring it back again with a prayer of blessing for its 
owner and his family. Afterwards the congregation ate and 
drank to the honour of the god. A mutual prayer against 
hail was finally sung at dawn. The remains of the feast were 
divided amongst the poor. The wax remaining in the candles 
was added to Peko's head; the greater the amount of wax 
gathered there, the more prosperous the summer became. 

According to another report the worshippers of Peko 
gathered together after sunset with their food-knapsacks on 
their backs at the house of Peko's guardian, who had previously 
carefully closed all the windows and lit the roof -lamp. The 
guardian, followed by two men, went to bring in Peko with a 
sheet in his hand, Peko being kept in the granary. The god 
was wrapped up in the sheet, brought into the house, and 
placed under the hanging-lamp. Everyone sat down with 
his back to Peko and began to eat out of his food-sack. Hav- 
ing finished, all rose up without even then turning towards 
Peko, and made fast their food-sacks again. They then 
marched nine times round Peko, singing: "Peko, our god, 
shepherd our herds, look after our horses, protect also our 
corn from snow, from hail! " Leaving Peko in the room, 
they then went on to wrestle. The one receiving the first 


bruise cried out with a loud voice that blood was shed, on 
which all hurried to acclaim him as the guardian of Peko for 
the next year. The image of Peko was taken the same night 
in the dark to the new guardian's granary. 24 

The name Pekko or Peko is to be traced to the same Scan- 
dinavian word from which Beyggvir or Byggvir, the name 
of Frey's servant, and the Swedish bjugg (" barley ") are 

In North Tavastland in Finland, it was believed that the 
hop-field also had its own a ruler "j the Esthonians calling it 
the "Hop king" or the "Hop-field master." This last 
people still speak of the " Flax mother," preserved in the 
linen-chest " in order that the linen should flourish well." " 
Counterparts to these deities of particular kinds of plants of 
the Baltic Finns are met with among the Teutons. 

A very general belief amongst the majority of European 
peoples is that the cornfield is protected by its tutelary spirit, 
especially during the period of ripening. During the ripen- 
ing-time of the rye, the Volga Finns say that one may not 
dig in the earth or go into the rye-fields, and that one must 
avoid all noisy work and work causing evil smells, such as, 
for example, the carting of manure or the making of tar. 
Neither may one dress in startling colours. The most 
exacting time is noon, when one may even not talk aloud. 
As a punishment for unseemly behaviour, hailstorms and 
thunder, which ruin the crops, are dreaded. The hot 
" evil time," said to last a couple of weeks, is concluded 
among the Cheremiss (Kazan Government) by so-called 
j«V^w-ceremonies, in which occurs an odd custom of blow- 
ing long horns of wood made specially for the occasion. 
These are taken later to a tree, round which one goes in a 
procession with the horns held in the hand, and where the 
sacrificing priest with cakes in his right hand and a vessel of 
beer in his left, recites a prayer. Should one of the horns 
break during the ceremony, it is regarded as a sign of hail. 


The more Northern Cheremiss blow these horns later in 
the autumn after the conclusion of field-labour, keeping them 
for the next year in a secret place. During the " dangerous 
time " one may not blow them. It is further related that the 
members of a wedding-procession, when escorting the bride 
to the village of the bridegroom, attempt to steal these horns 
from her home, believing that they carry with them " corn- 
luck." 16 

The Mordvins believe that if absolute silence is observed 
during the flowering of the rye, one can hear from the " corn- 
mother " what kind of a harvest to expect. One has only to 
go out in the stillness of the night and listen; should one hear 
whistling from the field, then a good year may be expected, 
but if one hears weeping and wailing, it is a sign of a year of 
famine. 27 

According to the Siryans a female spirit dwells in the rye- 
fields, called Poloznitsa (from Russian Poludnitsa, " Mid- 
day-goddess ") and punishes all who in any way, harm the 
rye during the time of flowering. A blue flower {Centaurea 
cyanus) which grows among the corn y is called " Poloznksa's 
eye." ** The Esthonians speak of the spiteful " Corn virgins " 
who wander in the fields, and of a " Corn wolf " (also " Pea 
wolf " and " Bean wolf "), with which they frighten the 
children. 29 The Finns also represented the corn-spirit in the 
form of an animal; in Osterbotten, they say that the person 
to cut the last stalk of the crop on the rye-field or oat-field 
" catches a hare." 30 Among the Esthonians the animated 
last sheaf goes by the name of " rye-pig." 31 

Like the Teutons and Slavs, the Baltic Finns have retained 
a habit of preserving the last sheaf of the corn-field, regarding 
this as a kind of corn-deity. The Finns are said to have 
placed a sheaf left from the previous autumn on the rafters 
of the threshing-shed whence it was brought at Christmas- 
time into the dwelling-house. There the grain was separated 
from the ears and the straw thrown up to the ceiling, where 


part of it remained clinging to the rafters. The spring sow- 
ings were begun with the grain obtained in this way; the 
straw which adhered to the ceiling being also hidden in the 
corn-field. 32 A more widespread custom found also among the 
Volga Finns, was to preserve the last sheaf undisturbed till 
the next year, in order that the corn should thrive. Among 
the Esthonians such a sheaf was called " threshing-shed 
father." " The Swedes in Finland constructed a human-like 
" Christmas old man " (Jul-gubbe) of straw at Christmas- 
time, which was then put in the place of honour at the head 
of the table and was treated with drink." A corresponding 
straw doll was prepared by the Finns on Kekri or Keyri (All 
Saints' Day) and was called the " Keyri old man " (Keyri 
ukko). M At both festivals there was further a custom of 
placing straw on the floor of the dwelling-room and of baking 
of new flour an especially large cake, sometimes faintly re- 
sembling an animal (Esthonian " Christmas pig " or u Christ- 
mas bull"); the cake being kept on the table during the 
holiday, but afterwards taken to the granary, where it was 
preserved among the grain until sowing-time. According to 
an older custom this loaf was baked from grain dried in the 
open air. 8 * Compared with Christmas, the Kekri of the Finns 
represents an older festival of new bread and a new year; as 
the agricultural peoples, also of Finnish stock, earlier cele- 
brated this festival as the time for the baking of the fruits 
of the new harvest (Finnish vuodenalkajaiset, " the beginning 
of the year"; Votiak, vil'ar, "New Year"). A straw doll 
is known also among the Esthonians. According to a state- 
ment made in 1694 the peasants on Shrove Tuesday evening 
made of straw a human-like figure, metsik, dressed as a man 
or a woman, which was put upon a stick and carried to the 
wood, where it was bound on the tip of a bush in order " that 
the corn and flax should grow well." The custom was in 
some districts connected also with New Year and other times." 
The Cheremiss conclude their harvest with a ceremony, 


called " the feeding of the sickle." The people of the farm 
take bread, cheese, etc., out with them to the field, and kneel 
down before a few remaining stalks of oats, the master of 
the house reading a prayer in which a good harvest is prayed 
for from the gods. After this, the food brought out is tasted, 
and then all kneel down again. The master of the house 
now collects all the sickles used in the harvest, piles them up 
on the unreaped stalks, which he thus presses to the ground 
and then, beginning at the point, winds them round the sickles 
down to the root. Finally, by lifting the sickles he pulls out 
the oat-stalks by the roots, saying meanwhile: " Sickles, the 
whole summer have you laboured, may the food you now 
have eaten bring strength to you," or " Sickle, take strength, 
the whole summer hast thou laboured, take strength. Thy 
share have we spread out, our share mayest thou not touch! " 
The master of the house, followed by the family, then takes 
the sickles, wrapped in oat-straw, to some attic in the house or 
a barn, whence they are taken out first at the next summer. 
The last stalks are called " the sickle's share." 3S 

It is quite natural that among the more northern peoples, 
who exist chiefly, by hunting and fishing, deities of vegetation 
are not found. The " grass mother " of the Russian Lapps, 
seeing that grass is of very little consequence even to the 
reindeer, who live on moss, is probably of late origin. This 
may also be true regarding the Rana-neidda (" Rana virgin ") 
of the Lapps, who lived in heaven and ruled over the moun- 
tains which first became green in the spring. When sacrificing 
to her " in order that the reindeer should get grass in time," a 
spinning-wheel or a spindle was placed against her altar, both 
of which were besmeared with sacrificial blood. The spin- 
ning-wheel sacrifice, which cannot originally have been a Lapp 
custom, shows that "the greatest of all goddesses," who be- 
sides the grass, called forth also the leaves in the spring, is a 
Scandinavian goddess (Frigg). 89 

The Norse Frey can be recognised in the Scandinavian 



Lapps' Veralden*olmai ("World's man"). The missionary 
Randulf compares him with Saturn and says that the Lapps 
" paint him on their magic drums in such a manner that a 
curved line with many little outspringing thorns is drawn 
over his head; this symbolizes the fruitfulness of sea, land 
and cattle. They pray to him to make the earth fruitful with 
corn, that they might on reasonable terms brew beer and 

Fig. 9. Drawings of Heaven on Shaman Drums 

Left: c and e, Thunder-gods; d, God of Fertility; f, Wind-god. 
Right: d and f, Thunder-gods; b, God of Fertility; e, Wind-god. 

From Rudbecfc's Atlantic**. 

spirits and everything prepared from corn. This is indicated 
by the hoe which they fit into his hand. At the same time they 
pray that he would render the sea bounteous in order that they 
might procure much fish (this is done especially by the Sea 
Lapps), and that he would make their reindeer fruitful, so 
that they might bear many calves, and that he would make 
the moss of the uplands, which is eaten by their reindeer, 
grow richly, that they might obtain much reindeer butter, 
cheese, etc. Altogether they pray to Veralden-olmai or Saturn, 
for everything that grows or is born. 1 ' 40 

In the cult of this god of fruitfulness the sexual organs 
played an important part. Noraeus relates that the Swedish 
Lapps sacrificed to it on St. Matthew's Day in the following 
manner: " They gathered together the horns of the reindeer 
they, had slaughtered, but the bones of one reindeer, from 
the smallest to the biggest, were extracted and the blood of 
the same reindeer sprinkled over these bones, which were then 
buried in the earth5 erecting thereafter amongst them an 


image made of birch-wood, also sprinkled with blood, on the 
breast of which, under the face, the membrum genltale was 
attached." When the Lapps were asked why they did this, 
they answered that they were following the ancient habits of 
their forefathers and sacrificing to the earth, firstly, because 
the earth kept alive their reindeer; secondly, that it might 
not send diseases that hurt the feet of the reindeer in summer ; 
and thirdly, that the earth, besides nutrition, would give their 
reindeer a powerful pairing-lust, sacrificing for this purpose 
the above-mentioned organ, in order that the number of rein- 
deer might increase greatly, as the time of the feast of St. 
Matthew was the best pairing-time of the reindeer. 41 

Besides reindeer, in the ear of which a red thread was tied, 
the Scandinavian Lapps sacrificed also the implements needed 
in agriculture — hoes and spades, to the "World's man." 42 
Even without these customs, one can see from the name of the 
god that he is none other than the Scandinavian Frey, who is 
also called " Veraldar god " by Snorri Sturlason. 


THE DEITIES of birth among the Lapps were Madder- 
akka and her three daughters Sarakka, Juksakka and 

Madderakka (akka, " old woman ") although called the 
mother of other deities, seems at least in later times to have 
been regarded as of less importance than these others. Si- 
denius says that the Lapps sacrificed to her only " so that she 
would allow her daughters to serve women." He points out, 
however, that among some she was believed to help her 
daughters herself in their duties. 1 Jessen relates that she 
creates the body of the child, 2 and Randulf tells that she 
renders both women and cattle fruitful. 3 

On certain magic drums appears also a male counterpart to 
Madderakka, the so-called Madderatshe (" Madder fa- 
ther"), who is, however, little known and has most probably 
only later appeared at the side of the female Madderakka.* 

This latter — the first part of whose name, according to 
Set'ala, corresponds to the Finnish word mantere (" the 
earth ") — lived, according to the Lapps, together with her 
three daughters, in the earth beneath the Lapp tent. For this 
reason, sacrifices to them were placed in the ground. 8 

At the birth Sarakka of Saredne (" Sar mother ") seems 
to have played the most important part. Her name may 
possibly be derived from the Lapp word saret (" to cleave "). 
Skanke gives Sarakka another significant name, Sadsta-akka, 
in which the word sadsta is said to be identical in meaning with 
the Lapp word suorek-muora (a piece of wood split at one 
end into two parts). 6 Both names of this deity remind one of 


a magic method of assisting childbirth and rendering it easier, 
a method palpably touched on by Forbus when he puts the 
following question to the Lapps : " Have you not chopped 
wood in honour of Sarakka in time of birth? " T 

From the questions by Forbus it is further apparent that 
these pieces of wood, cleft in honour of Sarakka, were re- 
garded as holy; they were not used as fuel, and were not 
even allowed to be touched. 

Sarakka was worshipped chiefly, in childbed. Besides 
women, she helped also reindeer at the birth of their calves, 
assuaging their pains. For this reason the Lapps endeavoured 
to stand well in the favour of the deity. How intimately 
Sarakka followed the course "of the birth -pangs of her wards 
is seen from the belief of the Lapps that she felt the same 
agony as the one in childbed. Like Madderakka, Sarakka was 
also believed to create the body of the infant. 8 

The protection of Sarakka was sought by the Lapp women 
also during menstruation. According to Forbus the women 
took off their collars and belts at such times " in honour of 
Sarakka." This custom is unquestionably derived from the 
magic belief that during these periods, as also during child- 
birth, nothing knotted may be worn on the body. During 
menstruation women were regarded as unclean and were not 
allowed to move about freely. When the said period was 
over, a woman would wash her head in water, in a pan which 
she then scoured with meal and used for the baking of a cake 
which women only were allowed to eat. 9 

A purification-meal in honour of Sarakka was eaten also 
after the successful birth of a child. Jessen relates that women 
in childbed drank " Sarakka's brandy " before deliverance and, 
together with other women, ate " Sarakka's porridge " after 
giving birth. In the porridge three sticks were placed; the 
first one was cleft and had three rings hanging from it, the 
second was black, and the third white. These were all laid 
for three days at the door of the tent. If it were found that 


the black stick had disappeared, it was believed to indicate that 
either the mother or the child would die. If, on the other 
hand, the white one was lost, both would live. 10 S. Kildal 
relates that in some districts a miniature bow and arrow were 
placed in the porridge so that the child, if a boy, would be- 
come a good hunter when grown up. 11 Forbus explains that 
the weapons were placed in the porridge in three different 
parts, the shaft, the bow, and the arrow. The accident of 
lifting out any of these parts with the spoon while eating was 
fraught with significance. The bow was hung later on the 
child's cradle; but if the pieces placed in the porridge had 
unluckily not been fished out in the spoons, they were thrown 
away. Among the questions written by. Forbus is the follow- 
ing: " Have you still the little bow that you had to bear on 
thy body? " " 

Just as the cleft stick seems to be connected with the name of 
Sarakka, the bow placed in the porridge is connected with an- 
other name, Juksakka ("Bow old woman"). Of this last- 
named deity Solander says that she helps women at the pro- 
duction and birth of children. The most important duty of 
Juksakka was to change the girl-child in the womb to a boy- 
child. 1 * To gain her help in this, sacrifices had to be offered 
up to her. According to Leem the Lapps sacrificed contin- 
ually to her because they desired boys rather than girls, as 
these last were of no use in the chase. Juksakka, who is some- 
times pictured on the magic drums with a bow in her hand, 
seems to have taken care that the Lapp boy became a good 
hunter. 14 

The third of Madderakka's daughters was Uksakka (" Door 
woman "), who was believed to live in the ground under the 
door of the tent. As a watchman at the door she protected 
people at their goings in or out. At childbirth she received 
the newcomer on his arrival in the world. Later she watched 
over the first steps of the child to prevent its falling and 
hurting itself. The Lapps sacrificed drink to her in the 


ground at the door of the tent, where she was supposed to 

Jessen adds that a special, consecrated building was erected 
for M adder akka and Sarakka. On some magic drums Sar- 
akka's tent can be seen. 16 As the Lapps do not customarily 
erect special dwelling-houses for their deities, there is reason 
to believe that the so-called " tent of Sarakka " is a relic of 
the times when a woman in childbirth was not allowed to stay 
in the common tent, but had a special tent erected for her. 
Such, for example, is the custom among the Samoyeds and 
Ostiaks even today. 

When the Lapps sacrificed to the deities of birth, they did 
this in a manner differing from the ordinary sacrifices. Olsen 
tells us that the Lapp mother, when convinced that she was 
with child, secured beforehand a little dog, which she kept 
by her until the time of giving birth had come. A little while 
before lying down for the approaching birth this dog had to 
be sacrificed " in order that God might help her and every- 
thing go well, and that both she and the child would preserve 
their lives and health, and live merrily and well afterwards." " 
After the birth a reindeer or some other domestic animal 
bought from the neighbouring peasants was sacrificed. Among 
such animals, goats, calves, sheep, lambs, pigs, cats and 
cockerels are mentioned. 18 On the head of the sacrificial 
animal " a linen kerchief or a woman's linen hat " had to be 
bound. 19 Jessen points out that the sacrificial priest also wore 
on these occasions a white linen hat, besides the linen apparel 
usually worn at votive ceremonies in Norwegian Lapland. 20 
The dog, together with the other animals, had to be buried 
alive in the ground, only the cock being shut in in a grotto of 
stone, where it could live and crow for a time, before dying 
of hunger. 21 With the exception of the cock, male animals 
were never sacrificed to the deities of birth. 22 From Randulf 's 
notes it appears that the Lapps also sacrificed spinning-wheels 
and spindles to them. 23 


Certain customs had also to be observed after the calving 
of a cow. According to Leem, the " first milk " had to be 
milked on to the ground. In the purification ceremonies flour 
was used, being scattered over both the cow and the calf, 
and flour had to be added also to the milk, before a male 
person might partake of it." 4 Doubtless, the flour was here 
of the same significance as at the ceremony for women. The 
custom here pictured by Leem can only have prevailed among 
the more Southern Lapps, who had, in places, begun to keep 

Many features in the above beliefs and customs show plainly 
that they cannot have been of Lapp origin, for instance, the 
special dress of the sacrificial priest, but, above all, the use 
of flour in so important a degree, points to derivation from an 
agricultural people. There would seem to be, therefore, good 
grounds for comparing Sarakka's porridge with the Old- 
Scandinavic " Noma porridge " (Noma greytur), the first 
meal eaten after childbirth by the women of the Faro-Islands. 
Troels Lund shows that among the Scandinavians also it was 
the custom to place in the porridge for women in childbed, 
" three sticks," with which the luck of the child was supposed 
to be intimately connected. 25 The sacrifice of spinning-wheels 
and animals bought from the neighbouring peasants, and clad 
with linen kerchiefs, points, too, with certainty to the fact 
that these customs have been borrowed by the Lapps. On 
several of the Lapp magic drums the deities of birth are seen 
pictured as three females, their number corresponding with 
that of the Scandinavian Norns. It should be observed also 
that Madderakka's three daughters are known only among 
the Scandinavian Lapps. One of the daughters, Uksakka, has 
a counterpart in the Swedish Dorr-Karing (" Door old 
woman"), who even to our times lives in the beliefs of the 
people in Vasterbotten, as " a light-fearing spirit, dwelling 
near the door." One had to be careful of her in going out 
with a lighted candle, as she would blow it out. 28 


More widely known also among the Finnish Lapps, is the 
mother, Madderakka." She might also find her counterpart 
in the Swedish Jordegumma (" Old woman of the earth "), 
which word now means " midwife," but in earlier times may 
well have been the name of a deity who, dwelling in the 
earth, assisted at childbirth. Similar changes in the meaning 
of a term may be observed in the Lapp tongue. At Gellivara 
the word sarak has been noted as meaning also " midwife." *' 
It is not, however, necessary in all the Lapp customs connected 
with birth to see only borrowed beliefs. The Yurak Samoyeds 
also worship a deity living in the earth and assisting at births, 
and, like the Lapps, they bury a dog alive to secure her help 
at the said event. 2 " 

Among the ancient Finns the deities of birth were called 
Luonnotar (luonto, " nature ") or Synnytar (synty, " birth "), 
and were three in number, corresponding thus with the Scandi- 
navic Norns and the Roman Parcae. In a magic song a man 
says: " I am created by three Luonnotars." These three deities 
appear also m the songs on the origin of iron, in which it is 
described how their milk was allowed by them to run into 
the earth, one dripping forth black milk, the second white, 
the third blood-red; the first giving birth to smithy-iron, the 
second to steel, and the third to refuse iron. 80 Often, the 
Virgin Mary, who in the Catholic period has played an im- 
portant part in the beliefs of the people, is also in the magic 
songs given the name Luonnotar and Luojatar (Luoja, 
" Creator "), and is appealed to in childbirth; the " sweet 
milk of Mary " is supposed to cure all kinds of sickness. At 
times she is imagined to have many breasts, like her prototype, 
the Ephesian Artemis, and is said to have " a hundred horns 
on her forehead, a thousand nipples to her breast." sl In magic 
songs she " spins a blue thread with a blue spindle." It is 
difficult to distinguish how much in the above beliefs is from 
an older time, and how much from the Catholic period (" the 
three Maries"). Both the origin and the name of the 


Esthonian Rougutaja, of which all that is known is that she 
was believed to help at births, are uncertain. 32 

The Cheremiss and the Votiaks have a custom of sacrificing 
a white sheep at the birth of a child to the deity of birth, 
called Kugu shotshen-ava (the " Great birthgiving mother ") 
by the former, by the latter Kildisin (kildini, " procreate," 
" give birth to "j in, " heaven, god "), or Kildisin-mumy, 
("Kildisin mother"). According to an account from the 
eighteenth century, the Votiak women prayed to the goddess, 
Kaldyni-mumas, for children, and virgins for a happy mar- 
riage. 33 Another account from the same period states that 
this deity was the fructifier of women and animals. 8 * Gen- 
erally, however, the Votiaks speak of special deities of fruit- 
fulness, the Kildisin of the earth, of the corn, and of children, 
who receive their own special sacrifices. Similarly, the Chere- 
miss worship the Shotshen of children, animals, corn, bees, 
etc., as separate deities. In the place of Shotshen (= Hill 
Cheremiss Shatshektshe), the Turco-Tatar loan-words Puir- 
sho (" procreator ") and Perke (Kazan Tatar, Vara gat t " suc- 
cess ") are used with the same meaning. 85 

From the sacrifice of the white sheep, one may, conclude 
that both the Cheremiss and the Votiak deities of birth, who 
" carried the soul to the child," were deities of Heaven. The 
word Kildisin means also literally the " procreating Heaven." 
According to Ryckov the female Kildisin was the mother or 
wife of the Heaven god, Inmar. In their folklore mention 
may also be found of " Inmar mother." s * The Jumon-ava 
of the Cheremiss (fumo, " Heaven," " Heaven god "; ava, 
" mother," " wife "), to whom female animals were sacrificed 
in the sacred groves, was worshipped also as the deity of 
childbirth and marriage. 37 Another heavenly deity was the 
Nishke-ava (properly, Ine-shki-ava, "the Great birth-giving 
mother"), probably identical with the little-known Azer-ava 
(" Mistress ") of the Moksha Mordvins, who was, according 


to an old account, a " corn-begetter " and " a dweller in the 
high place, in the upper parts of the atmosphere." SB 

The other deities of fruitfulness were sacrificed to in the 
same manner as to the " souls "of the things they were sup- 
posed to fructify, thus, for example, a black sheep to the 
" Earth-fructifier," the bones being buried in the earth. The 
" Cattle-fructifier " was worshipped by the Cheremiss espe- 
cially when the cows had borne calves; friends and neighbours 
being invited to a " cow's-milk feast." The host poured water 
on the oven and prayed that the calf might grow to be the size 
of the oven. The bystanders were also sprinkled with water 
with an accompanying prayer that god would let the cow give 
much milk. At the sacrifice-porridge, which was mixed with 
butter, the host prayed that the " Cattle-f ructifier " would 
give " as much cattle as there are hairs on the cow, so that one 
end of the herd might be still on the village-road when the 
other end had entered the cowsheds." 39 

Other magic ceremonies are also connected with the cult 
of procreation. As an example of these, the following custom 
of the Eastern Cheremiss may be described. When the sheep 
have not increased satisfactorily, a festival is proclaimed, to 
which boys and girls are invited. As a sacrifice a wild bird 
is shot, but for lack of this a hen may be used. The host 
takes the bird and the hostess the implements necessary at the 
sacrifice, and a journey to the sheepfolds is made, the boys and 
girls following them, creeping on all fours. The hostess 
induces the children to keep after her, enticing them like 
sheep, the movements and voices of which the children seek 
to imitate. The boys butt at the girls, imitating rams. Ar- 
rived at the sheepfold the host makes a fire, round which 
the so-called sheep crawl baa-ing three times, following the 
hostess. They, then rise, and the bird is cooked and eaten in 
the sheepfold, the bones being thrown on to the roof of the 
fold and prayers offered up to the " Sheep-f ructifier." The 


Cheremiss, from whom the author took down the above ac- 
count, remarked that is not customary to invite many boys to 
this ceremony, but chiefly girls, lest too many rams be born in 
the flock. 

A being dwelling in Heaven is also the deity to whom the 
Ostiaks and the Voguls pray for children, and who gives aid 
to their wives in childbed. At Vasyugan she is called Puges, 
" daughter of the Heaven god," and is said to live in the heights 
in a golden house, in the roof of which hang seven cradles. 
When she rocks one of these seven times a " soul " is created, 
but if the cradle should overturn during its movements, a 
" soul " is born that will not live long. The road to this 
dwelling goes over seven seas to a mountain consisting of 
seven stories. In the districts around Surgut, this deity with 
the seven cradles is called Vagneg-imi (imi } " old woman "), 
said in the old stories to be " the mother of the seven sons 
of the Heaven god." In her hand she holds a wooden staff, 
from which hang threads for each person born. When a 
child is born the goddess makes a knot in one of the threads, 
the distance between this and the staff indicating the length 
of the child's life, a matter not to be altered whatever sacrifices 
are offered up to the deity. The " Kaltas mother " of the 
Northern Ostiaks and the " Kaltes mother " of the Voguls, 
who protects both the one giving birth and the child, and 
who is said at a birth to " write down in a golden book," or 
on a "gold-embroidered seven-forked tree," the fate of 
the child just born and the length of his life, reminds one, 
as far as the name is concerned, of the Kildisin of the Votiaks. 
In folklore, the " Kaltes mother," often furnished with the 
epithet " the golden," appears as the daughter or wife of the 
Heaven god Torem, and as the mother of his children. Un- 
der the name of " Tiirem mother," the Northern Ostiaks also 
worship their great soul-giving deity. 40 

In certain districts images are made of this deity of child- 
birth. Possibly an idol of this description, worshipped for 


long distances around, has given rise to many exaggerated 
tales of the " Golden old woman," mentioned for the first 
time in an old Russian Chronicle, and afterwards, often under 
the name of Zlota baba, in the older geographical accounts. 
In the seventeenth century she is seen pictured, sometimes 
with a child in her arms, on many maps, on which she repre- 
sented the districts round the Northern Ural, little known at 
that time. 41 

Of the ceremonies observed by the Ostiaks at the birth of a 
child, only the fact that special consideration is attached to 
the placenta need be mentioned. We find Pallas already re- 
lating that it was laid in a basket of birch-bark, together with 
fish and meat, as a sacrifice, and carried to the forests where 
it was hung up in a tree. This custom survives today. Kar- 
jalainen says that the Ostiaks around Tremyugan call the pla- 
centa, in which they believe they can make out human features, 
" the nourishing-mother of the child," and, before the birth, 
sew a little shirt for it, to which is further attached a kind of 
belt and a headdress, the whole being placed together with 
the placenta in the above mentioned basket. Before the bas- 
ket is carried into the forest, fish, meat, and other victuals are 
set before it, and the women bow, saying: "Nourishing- 
mother of the child, eat! " The food used at this ceremony 
may only be eaten by women. At Vasyugan, if the newly-born 
is a boy, a little bow with two tiny arrows is tied to the 

Similar beliefs about the placenta were prevalent also among 
the Slavs, and are met with even today among many primitive 



ALTHOUGH sacrifices to Nature gods are not bound 
to be made at particular holy places, but may be per- 
formed anywhere, in the farm-yard, or at a " pure " spot in 
the fields, generally certain sacred groves are kept also for 
them. These groves resemble very much the already, described 
keremet-grovzs, though they are not always fenced in like 
these last. .Among the Cheremiss, who call them kiis-oto 
("sacrifice-grove"), they are often very large in area. As 
far as possible, groves to the Nature gods consist of leafy 
trees; the Cheremiss say that the most suitable tree is the lime, 
though oak and birch will do at a pinch. Sacrifices are made 
with the face turned to the east, or " upward." 

Often, each village has its separate grove, called " the vil- 
lage-grove." In addition, the Volga Finns have had more im- 
portant groves, in which the villages of a whole district offered 
Up mutual sacrifices. Both the Votiaks and the Cheremiss call 
a district, bound in this way to sacrifice together, by. a loan- 
word mer (Russian mir } " village-community "), but the 
latter (Urzhum District) also by their own word tiste-kerge 
(tihe, " ownership-mark," kerge, " district "), probably from 
the fact that the villages connected therewith have had a 
common ownership-mark. From this, one may conclude that 
the greater sacrifice-district originally consisted of villages and 
families belonging to the same clan. Even today, one may 
observe in certain neighbourhoods, that although the villages 
belonging to one of these sacrifice-areas may be relatively 
distant from one another, similar usages and customs are ob- 


served, while in a much nearer village belonging to another 
sacrifice-area, widely differing customs are followed. Each 
mer has its special name, often after the village near which 
the grove is situated. It is possible that these villages were 

t the mother-villages of the clan. Besides its connection with 

sacrifices, the term tiste-kerge has also a communal significa- 
tion among the Cheremiss. During periods of great trouble, 
war, or famine, several mer may, according to the directions 
of a " seer," assemble to still greater mutual sacrificial feasts, 
lasting sometimes for a week or two, in some very old grove, 
> where the number of animals sacrificed may rise to a hundred 
and the sacrificing congregation to a thousand or so. It is 

* obvious, that such great gatherings have great significance 

r politically; even today the often very widely-scattered vil- 

lages are bound together and prevented from being assimi- 
lated into the foreign tribes living around them by these 
. gatherings. 

In the groves sacred to Nature gods there are no buildings 
for the preservation of sacrificial offerings or idols. It is 
probable that these peoples never made images of their Nature 

3 gods. 

The great festivals in honour of the Nature gods are gen- 
erally held during the most beautiful time in the summer, 
before the hay-making, or also after the harvest. Often the 
#&?r-festivals are not annual like the village-festivals, but are 
celebrated after the lapse of a longer period, e.g., after three 
or five years. 

When intending to hold a mutual sacrificial festival, the 

j different villages belonging to the area send representatives, 

i.e., priests, to a meeting, at which the precise day for its 
celebration is fixed upon, as well as the animals to be sacrificed 
and the procuring of these. The animals must be of one 
colour, healthy, and not too old, at the most in their second 
year. Moreover, they must be " untainted " animals, i.e., 
animals that have not been used for labour or for procreation. 


According to the Cheremiss, not even a goose or duck may be 
used that has sat on eggs. Should an animal shiver when it 
is looked at, this is regarded as a good omen. When the 
sacrificial animal has been decided on, a long, narrow towel 
is bound round its neck, as a sign that it has been set aside for 
a sacred purpose. The towel is not taken away until the 
sacrifice begins, when it is hung up in the sacrifice tree for 
the period of the ceremony. 

Funds for the procuring of the victim are collected from 
all the farmers belonging to the area, regardless of whether 
these intend to be present at- the festival or no. Although 
there is no question here of an obligatory tax, but of voluntary 
gifts, each head of a family deems it his duty to subscribe to 
the mutual sacrifice, according to his means and present con- 
dition. The handling of and accounting for the funds is en- 
trusted to a special functionary, the so-called " cashier." The 
number of sacrifices depends on the prosperity of the people j 
the sacrificing priests discuss together and decide which of the 
gods is to be sacrificed to in each separate case. 

In every village there are one or more priests, called among 
the Cheremiss k&rt ("old man"). In the choice of these 
karty who keep their positions until their death, or until the 
weakness of old age, the trustworthiness of the candidate, his 
knowledge of the sacrificial ceremonies, and his ability to 
recite prayers are taken into consideration. Often, a former 
assistant to some kart> who has already filled a lower position 
in the priesthood, is chosen to be the follower of one of these. 
Where there are several priests, the Cheremiss call the oldest 
or most capable of these the "great kart," the others being 
" small kart." At the sacrifices of several villages, the many 
priests of the area are, without further choosing, participators 
in the ceremony, discussing among themselves the order of 
the same and which god each separate priest shall pray to. 
When one of these priests, who in the sacred grove stand in 
line, each under his own sacrifice tree, resigns, the new-comer 



does not take his place, but instead the neighbour to the one 
leaving moves up one place in his holy office, followed by 
those coming after him, so ihat the newcomer may step into 
the place at the end of the line. Each priest has the right 
to choose his own assistant. 

To obtain a clear and complete view of the ceremonies at 
a great festival in honour of the Nature gods among the agri- 
cultural Volga Finns, we should follow closely, the programme 
of one of these festivals at any one place. As the old heathen 
customs have best been preserved among the unbaptized Chere- 
miss, we shall consider a great w^-festival among these 
t (Birsk District, Tsherlak village) at which the author was 

1 present in 1913. 1 

\ On the morning of the festival the functionaries concerned 

i in the same go earlier than the rest of the congregation to 

I the grove. They do not, as yet, step right into the sanctuary, 

1 but remain at first in a kind of forepart to the grove itself, 

\ where a provisional little tent-like hut has been erected. 

I Here the treasurer accounts for the means collected during the 

; festival. This forepart is chiefly intended for the congrega- 

\ tion, who remain here during the holy ceremonies, discussing 

\ the news of the day, telling fairy-tales, enjoying refreshments, 

! etc., or drying their garments, washed in the brook in the 

\ vicinity of the grove. Into the sanctuary itself no one may 

I go who has not previously bathed in this brook and clothed 

\ himself in clean, preferably white, holiday garments. This 

I is a daily duty to each participator in the festival for the 

t whole period of the same. In the forepart may also be seen 

j' the sacrificial animals and the sacrificial objects awaiting their 

i turn to be put into use. 

In a Cheremiss grove, in which several gods are offered up 
to, each god has his own " sacrifice tree "j these trees stand 
in a row a few paces distant from each other. On the extreme 
east is the tree of " the great Jumo," at which the ceremonies 
are begun. As the ceremonies at each tree resemble one an- 


other closely, we shall follow only the one at the tree of the 
Heaven god. 

Having bathed in the brook, the sacrificing priests bear all 
the objects needed at the ceremony to the foot of the tree of 
the Jumo. Every one has his own particular duty, one bring- 
ing water from the brook, another chopping down old stumps 
and gathering fallen branches for fuel. Others prepare from 
lime-bark sacred objects necessary at the sacrifice, a girdle, a 
bridle, a peculiar " tassel," etc. At the beginning a fire must 
be made on the site of former fires. Fire must be brought 
from the village in a pot, as the Cheremiss believe that one 
may not light a sacrificial fire with a match. Over the fire- 
place an erection of young limes is set up, on which in earlier 
times, as one may judge from the name " cauldron-holder," 
cauldrons for sacrifice were hung, but in the present time it 
is generally so weak that it can hardly bear a small pan for 
porridge} the meat-cauldrons are placed on a foundation of 
birch-logs. The trunks of both the above-mentioned trees 
must be laid so that the thick end is towards the sacrifice tree. 

The chief priest now digs up the copper coins, buried during 
the foregoing festival in the ground at the foot of the tree. 
To the lefty before the tree, a candlestick oi. wood ("silver 
candlestick ") is stuck into the ground, in which a little yellow 
candle, formed in the grove, is placed. Although this candle 
is thin and unpretentious, it is called in the prayers "the 
great silver candle." To the right of the sacrifice tree, a little 
round pillar is also stuck into the ground, and a little wooden 
bowl placed on it. Into this, a drink made of honey is poured, 
but, judging from the name "resin-bowl," it must formerly 
have contained resin. Further, against the living " great " 
sacrifice tree, a " little " one is set up, which is bound to the 
former with bast; the "little " tree is a young lime chopped 
off at the root. If the " great " sacrifice tree is an oak or a 
birch, the " little " tree should also be an oak or a birch. 

Before the great sacrificial cauldrons are laid on the fire, 



porridge is cooked in a smaller vessel, which is then lifted 
on to the roots of the sacrifice tree, being placed next to the 
" resin-bowl." In the vessel a small spoon like a shaving of 
lime-bark is placed, called, despite its un pretentiousness, " the 
silver spoon." Before all this, white cloths are spread on the 
ground bestrewed with lime-branches, and on these, in rows, 
the sacrificial "butter and milk" loaves are placed touching 
one another. Of the sacrificial bread, baked by the priest 
himself early in the morning at the 
village, there must be nine loaves, 
one " large " and eight " small." 
In the middle and at the edge these 
loaves have a mark made by the 
three finger-tips j the mark on the 
edge is called the " nose " (tier) 
and the one in the middle " the 
body" (kaf). On the "large" 
loaf there are also lines, those 
on the sides being called " wings," 
and those on the opposite end to the " nose " the " (bird's) 
tail." On this loaf, therefore, a bird is formed. The 
loaves are placed on the cloth with the " noses " towards 
the tree, the " large " loaf on the extreme right. Behind the 
loaves, nine wooden bowls are laid parallel with these. Later, 
a drink made of honey is poured into them, the drink being 
prepared for the festival by young maidens. Sometimes the 
loaves and the bowls are arranged in two rows. Both are dedi- 
rated to certain deities: the " large " loaf and the bowl behind 
it to the " great Jumo," the others to other gods who do not 
seem to be exactly defined, but vary, even at different festivals 
in the same grove. 

The candle is now lit with a brand from the fire and a 
young foal is led into the sanctuary. To the right of the 
fire, about ten paces away from this, a post of birch-wood is 
driven into the ground and to this the sacrificial horse is 

Fig. 10. Sacrificial Bread 


bound fast with a bridle made solely of lime-bark (" the 
silver bridle "). To this ceremony belong also a footsnare 
of plaited lime-bark with which the forefeet of the sacrifice 
are bound during the sacrifice. 

The first sacred act is the casting of pewter. The kart 
places himself to the left of the fire, holds the blade of an 
axe vertically over a vessel of water and says: " O bless and 
protect us, great god, give us health, prosperity and riches! 
We on our side brought and set up for thee a sacrifice ; if thou 
on thy side wilt accept a horse with shining hair and gleaming 
mane, with silver tail and silver hoofs, may its head and 
feet be formed in the cast pewter! " Here the assistant 
pours the molten metal on the blade of the axe, having heated 
the former, praying as he did so, in a little iron ladle. With 
great curiosity, the priest examines the shape formed by the 
metal as it fell into the water. Should there be nothing in 
its shape that resembles the sacrifice it is thrown into the fire 
and a new lot melted j but if there is, this shows, as the Chere- 
miss believe, that the god is willing to accept the animal. 
The pewter figure which is called the " picture " or " shadow M 
of the sacrifice is set for the while on the " large " sacrificial 

The axe is now laid on the ground before the sacrifice tree. 
The kart takes a knife in his right hand and a burning brand 
in his left, and places himself by the axe with his face towards 
the tree. Swinging the brand in the air, he speaks now also 
of the shining sacrificial horse, adding: " With the scent of 
smoke and the clang of iron, we call thee to our feast, thou 
merciful! " When he has finished this prayer, he rings three 
times on the axe with the knife. Thereafter he goes to the 
horse and touches its forehead and neck three times with 
the brand, saying: " Accept a good foal, with shining hair and 
silver tail! " 

He then takes the knife and a green lime-branch and stands 
to the left of the fire, where he whittles a little of the thick 


end of the branch, after which he moves over to the sacrifice 
tree where, with the knife in his right hand and the branch 
in his left, he recites the following prayer: " O bless and 
protect us, great god! With a large sacrifice loaf and with 
a great vessel filled with honey-drink, with a great silver 
candle, with a great resin-bowl, with a great sacrifice tree, 
with a great sacrifice girdle, with a great ' tassel ' and with 
a great sacrifice pewter we approach thee. If thou art satisfied 
with thy people and the priests, let the shaving of lime-wood 
fall right." As he says this, he shaves off a piece from the 
branch, the position of which on the ground is then closely 
examined by the priests together. Should the thicker end be 
towards the sacrifice tree or to the east, it signifies that the 
god is kindly disposed and satisfied with the people and 
the priests; in the opposite case, the sacrificing priest, follow- 
ing the direction of the sun, goes round the fire, placing 
himself again to the left of it, where he whittles the branch 
again and, standing before the sacrifice tree, does as before. 

Where the first shaving has signified good luck, it is placed 
in the porridge-pan, to the right of the " silver spoon." As 
the kart whittles the second he pronounces a prayer, the be- 
ginning of which is the same as in the foregoing, but finishes 
with a new wish: " If thou art pleased with the work of our 
hands (i.e., with the objects needed at the ceremony) let the 
shaving fall right! " Its position is examined again, and if 
a lucky omen is now also discovered in it, it is laid beside 
the other in the porridge-pan. A third shaving must still 
be whittled. With the help of this the sacrificial foal, which 
has to shiver when sprinkled with water, is examined to see 
whether it is acceptable to the god. The prayer accompanying 
this begins also like the former, but ends with the words: 
" If thou art satisfied with the shivering horse with shining 
hair and gleaming mane, with the silver tail and silver hoofs, 
let the shaving fall right." The third shaving also is laid in 
the porridge-pan. 


The assistant of the sacrificing priest now pours fresh water 
into a wooden bowl, takes this in his right hand and green 
lime-branches in his left and goes to the foal, after having en- 
circled the fire in the direction of the sun. The head of this, 
on which the " silver bridle " has been set, should be turned 
towards the sacrifice tree. The kart himself stands before the 
tree and prays again : " O bless and protect us, great god ! We 
on our side have brought and set up a sacrificial horse, with 
shining hair and gleaming mane and silver tail, accept it on thy 
side with good feeling, and shake from it the touch of human 
hands! " During the prayer the assistant pours water on the 
animal's back through the lime-branches, beginning from the 
head. That the purpose of this is to purify the animal appears 
from the accompanying prayer. During this ceremony, as 
during all others, the other participants kneel with bared heads 
and wait reverently for the shudder which the touch of the 
water is bound to cause in the animal, and which is regarded as 
a sign of acceptance of the sacrifice by the god. Should the 
desired result not be accomplished at the first attempt, it is 
repeated a second, third, or even more times. Each time the 
kart recites the same prayer before the tree. While waiting 
for the sign, the reasons why the god will not accept the 
offering are examined. The assisting priests look to see that 
the fire is made on exactly the site of former fires, that the 
erection over the fire is rightly placed, so that the saplings 
have their thin ends upward, and the horizontal ones their 
roots towards the sacrifice tree. The positions of the objects 
on the altar are also looked to. Finally, the bridle is set 
right on the foal's head. If the candle has gone out, it is 
lighted anew. The assistants of the officiating priests try 
their luck at sprinkling, one after another, even attempting to 
obtain the desired result by sprinkling in the animal's ear. 
While the kart prays, the person from whom the animal was 
brought, kneels also before the tree. While waiting the result, 
all present, kneeling, pray half -aloud: " O good, great god, 


Jet the sacrifice shake and shiver! " The sprinkling may not, 
however, be repeated an unlimited number of times, but the 
animal, after a ninth attempt, is taken out of the grove and 
a new one procured in its place. When the victim, some- 
times at the first attempt, does shiver, all rise from their knees, 
thanking the god, and the slaughterers begin their work imme- 
diately. The animal's feet are bound together with a rope 
of lime-bark, and it is then thrown over on to its left side; the 
head must also now be in the direction of the tree. A smaller 
hole is dug in the ground at the head, and, in order that the 
blood shall not flow on the ground, is covered with lime- 
branches. The kart now places himself before the tree and 
says: " We on our side have brought and set up a sacrifice for 
thee, accept thou it on thy side and let the rising ' soul * 
(tson) be a foal with shining hair, etc." Meanwhile the 
slaughterer cuts the veins of the neck open, with an old- 
fashioned knife used only at sacrifices, so that the blood 
streams through the lime-branches into the hole. The first 
warm drops are taken by the kart in a little wooden spoon, 
after which he goes as before round the fire to the tree and 
prays: "O good, great god, with fresh blood we turn to thee. 
Send peace and justice to all peoples living under the sky! " 
Having said which, he throws the blood up into the tree, 
goes again to the foal and fills the spoon with blood as this 
continues to flow out of the wound. This time he steps to 
the left of the fire and with his face to it says: " Thou, ' Fire- 
mother,' with fire and steam, with thy sharp tongue carry 
up the sacrifice to the great god! " At the same time he 
throws the blood into the fire. Afterwards, the offering-girdle, 
intended later to be placed round the tree, is drenched with 
blood; both sides of the girdle are drawn over the wound. 
The " bridle " and the " f ootsnare " are taken off and for the 
time hung up on the post to which the foal had been tied, 
and the flaying of the foal, in which four men take part, 
begins. Now also, the head of the victim must be kept towards 


the tree. The candle at the foot of the tree burns all this 
time, a new one being used to replace the old one as soon as 

Immediately the flaying is begun, the nose or the part con- 
taining the lips is cut off as a special sacrifice, and purified by 
being scorched in the fire. The head, from which the lower 
jaw has been removed, is similarly scorched. The flesh is 
cut from the limbs without damaging the bones. Regarding 
the different parts of the meat, the Cheremiss follow a certain 
order. The so-called suvo-pitccs are placed separately in the 
cauldron at the cauldron-stand which is nearest to the sacrifice 
tree. These are the nose, or the parts around the mouth, the 
tongue, the brain, the throat, the back of the neck, the breast- 
bone, the heart, five ribs from the right and three from the left 
side, a piece from each hip, the knees of the hind legs, the 
stomach, liver, kidneys, and the intestines. The remainder 
is boiled in two cauldrons behind this first. When the flesh 
has been divided among the cauldrons, the hide is spread on 
the ground to the right of the sacrificial altar, with the head 
towards the tree. Spread on the ground, the hide resembles 
a horse, thrown over on its left side. The parts unfit to eat 
are placed in the hole with the blood. Later, the contents 
of this hole are burned up in a fire which is built over it. 
While the flesh is being cooked, this taking about two or three 
hours to do, the people remain in the forepart of the grove, 
to which new people continue to come irom the surrounding 
villages. Only, the kart with his assistants remains at the 
sacrificial fire. This is the time to gird round the " little " 
tree with the sacrificial " girdle," which must be twisted three, 
five, seven, or nine times (an odd number) round the tree. 
Between the tree and the girdle a bunch of green twigs is 
placed and the above-mentioned " tassel " is attached to the 
same, the pewter figure being made fast to this. 

A separate sacrifice must now be made to the " messenger 
of Jumo." A white sheep is led into the grove and bound 


fast to another post. The sacrifice of this is made before the 
same tree and is performed by the same kart. The ceremonies 
are. also the same as with the foal, except for the casting of 
the pewter, the clinking o£ the knife against the axe, and the 
whittling. At the slaughtering the blood is thrown into the 
tree and fire. For the flesh of the sheep a fourth cauldron 
is laid further behind on the stand. The skin is stretched 
out against that of the foal, with the head towards the tree 
and the legs stretched out to the right. At this time the kart 
pours the honey-drink in the wooden bowls on the altar and 
cuts out from the loaves the marks made on them by three 
fingers, leaving them still, however, in their places. 

When the sacrifice flesh is at last ready, the silvo-pieces are 
laid in a row in a special trough. From each piece of flesh a 
piece is cut out and placed in a round wooden dish, which is 
then placed at the foot of the tree. The pieces laid in the dish 
are called orolek. In addition, quite small pieces are cut from 
these parts of the flesh, and laid in two small wooden bowls 
(suvo-korka) of which one is dedicated to the accepter of the 
sacrifice, Jumo, and the other to the intermediary, the Fire 
god. Pieces are cut from the tongue at its root and from its 
apex, from the head at several different places, such as the 
upper and lower jaws, the parts round the eyes, and from the 
gullet. In each of the bowls the loosened pieces of bread 
are also placed, the kap-parts in the first, and the #*?/-parts in 
the second. A little porridge is also placed in each. Small 
slices are also cut from the following parts in this order and 
threaded on to a thin pointed stick of lime-wood: the after- 
intestine, the right and left hips, the kidneys, the middle of 
the breast, the heart, the aorta, the back of the neck, the 
throat, the tongue, the lips, and from the liver. On examining 
more closely the order of these twelve parts one notices that 
they stand towards each other pretty much in the same rela- 
tion as in the body of the animal. This stick with meat- 
slices, called sopsar, the kart places in the sacrificial girdle with 



these words: " O, bless and protect us, great god! The shining 
sacrificial horse, etc., etc. — accept it with good feeling j with 
the great so-psar-meaX we approach thee, give us health, pros- 
perity, riches, and peace! " The flesh remaining in the trough 
from the first cauldron, together with the left part of the 
" large " loaf and five small ones, is cut up at once to be eaten. 

Fig. ii. Sacrificial Accessories 

a, Silver Candlestick, b, Silver Spoon, c, Sacrificial Tassels, d, Sopsar. 

e, Suldes. 

The right-hand part of the " large " loaf and three small ones 
are placed in the orolek-piece dish. When the sheep's flesh is 
ready, pieces are cut from it as in the foregoing and placed 
in two Jtttjo-ladles. No flesh-stick is made from them, nor is 
orolek-Hesh divided from the rest. 

The sacrificing priest begins again to recite a prayer, holding 
a knife in his right and a burning brand in his left hand, at 
the close of the prayer ringing three times with the knife 
against the axe, which lies on the ground before him, and 
saying: " O bless and protect us, great god! With the large 
sacrificial loaf, with the great mead-dish, with the great silver 
candle, with the great candlestick, with the great resin-bowl, 
with the great sacrificial tree, with the great sacrificial girdle, 
with the great ( tassel,' and with the ' great pewter,' we ap- 


proach thee; grant to us health, happiness, riches and peace. 
Give family-happiness in the house, cattle-luck in the stock- 
yards, grain-luck in the threshing-barn, bee-luck in the hives, 
money-luck in the money-chest, give all kinds of luck and 
progress! " After which he throws the brand into the fire 
and seizing the lime-branch which he had earlier whittled, 
goes as usual round the fire, whittles a little from the end, 
and placing himself before the tree, says: " If thou wilt grant 
family-luck in the house, let the shaving fall right." As he 
says this, he lets fall a shaving, the position of which is then 
examined as before. The fifth shaving is whittled to a ques- 
tion regarding cattle-luck. The sixth for the threshing-barn, 
the seventh for the bee-hives, the eighth for the money-chest; 
whereafter the kart whittles a ninth, saying: " If thou, like 
the rising morning mist, wilt give all kinds of blessings to us, 
likewise long life, let the shaving fall right! " These six 
shavings are also laid by the others in the porridge-pan with 
the bark upward. 

The bough from which the shavings have been pared is 
taken by the kart a third time round the fire, after which he 
stands to the left of the fire, saying as he stares into the fire: 
"O great, good god! As the lime-bush in the meadows is 
glad, grant to us health, happiness, wealth and peace! But 
to those who regard not god as a god, the Czar as a Czar, a 
man as a man, and to the one who says he can work evil to 
others, give not, O god, to him that which he prays for. They 
who pluck ears of rye (for magical reasons), they who pluck 
out hairs from the cattle, they who ' cut the heart and liver,' 
hound them from one end of the world to the other. Health, 
happiness, give; peace and riches present to all the peoples 
living under the air! n 

Having said this he strikes off with the knife the top of 
the bough, so that it falls into the fire. Thereafter he splits 
both branches of the bough, threading on them (see Fig. 1 1, e) 
the afore-mentioned shavings in the order in which they were 


whittled. The object thus obtained, suldes, is besmeared with 
the porridge and placed in the girdle next to the meat stick. 
As he fastens it to the tree, he says: " With the sacrificial por- 
ridge, with the great suldes, we approach thee." 

When both the meat and the shavings have been placed in 
the girdle, the congregation is called into the grove itself. In 
front of the altar, a great white cloth is spread on the ground, 
before which four assisting priests place themselves to pray 
for every person, who, with his sleeve over his hand, brings a 
sacrifice coin. While praying the priest also keeps the coin on 
the sleeve drawn over his hand, as the Cheremiss believe the 
naked hand denies the coin. In these prayers, in which the 
donor is always named and kneels behind the priest, the words 
are as follows: " Good, great god! (then the person's name) 
comes with a sacrifice coin to the great sacrifice tree to worship, 
give him health, happiness and wealth, let him live happily 
in his house with his playful family! Give him family-luck 
— and all the different lucks up to money-luck — protect the 
cattle in the pastures from wolves, bears, evil sicknesses, and 
from the thieves who move in the night. Protect the seed 
from destructive frosts, from heat that might wither it, from 
heavy storms, from violent thunder-storms, and from all 
insects, that he might have bread to give also to the needy. 
Give all kinds of blessings to him! " As he finishes the prayer, 
the priest allows the coin to fall from his sleeve to the cloth. 
Those who have been hindered from coming to the festival 
send money by others, and prayers are read for them also. 
When each donor has been prayed for, which, although there 
are four priests, takes some time, the congregation fall on 
their knees in parallel rows behind the sacrificing priest. The 
essential festival-prayer of the day, often, lasting half an hour, 
is now begun, the kart praying for all that is good in the eyes 
of the Cheremiss, chiefly for children in the house, cattle in 
the yard, but mostly for great stacks in the threshing-barn. 
Having prayed for all blessings, he prays to the god for 


many kinds of protection. Further, he thanks the god for 
having attended the sacrifices with fortune and accepted the 
offerings in good feeling. Finally he prays for pardon, 
should he have said last that which should come first, or vice 
vena. After each prayer the congregation bow their fore- 
heads to the ground. The kart then makes a speech to the 
people, urging them to live in harmony, to avoid quarrels, 
not to take another's property, also not to lie, not to bear false 
witness, not to drink too much spirits, etc. The congregation 
then rises and the elder people go to shake the kart's hand in 

Soon the congregation go on their knees again. The kart 
takes Jumo's drinking-bowl and two assistants the iwvo-bowls, 
after which they follow one another, keeping to the right, 
round the fire, stopping on the left side of the same, where the 
contents of the bowls are thrown into the fire. The kart pours 
twice from his bowl, the first time to Jumo, the second to the 
Fire god, to whom also the Jww-bowls are sacrificed. As he 
sacrifices to Jumo he says: u O great, good god! the great 
sacrificial drinking-bowl, the great silvo-bovfls have we 
brought. Accept them with good feeling! " To the Fire god 
he says: " Fire god, thy smoke is high, and thy tongue sharp, 
take the sacrifice up with the smoke and steam and bear it 
to the great god! " Immediately afterwards a drink-offering 
and a j^o-sacrifice is made in the same way, to " Jumo's mes- 
senger," and the Fire god. From the great meat-trough, an 
assisting priest takes a piece also to the fire built on the place 
where the foal was slaughtered, and sheep's flesh to the fire 
on the place of the sheep's slaughtering. In both cases he 
turns to the Fire god and prays that the last drop of blood 
might be burned up, those also that possibly have spattered 

The kart now gives to eight assisting persons ("goblet- 
bearers ") each his bowl, saying in which god's honour each 
shall cast the contents into the fire. The " goblet-bearers " 


pass round the fire in the direction of the sun, stopping to the 
left of the same. This round is made several times, the sacri- 
ficing priest refilling the bowls each time and naming new gods 
to be remembered. Thus, all the Cheremiss gods and spirits, 
from the highest to the lowest, obtain their share of this sacri- 
fice. After this drink-sacrifice the bowls are replaced in their 
former order. 

The kart now prays alone, with a bowl in his hand, casting 
three times from it also on to the sacred tree, saying: " Accept 
our prayer, give justice and peace to all the peoples under the 
heavens! " Repeating this prayer he throws soup from the 
trough on to the tree with a ladle. The assisting priest does 
the same also once. 

The congregation then seat themselves on the grass. Two 
assisting priests go three times in the direction of the sun 
round the fire, shaking heartily all the sacrificial objects on the 
trough, the bowls, the dishes, the cloths, the "little " sacrifice 
tree, the animal's skin, etc., saying: "This is for thee." 

It is nearly evening when the sacrificial meal is begun. 
First, the porridge and the honey-drink are tasted, everyone 
wishing each other happiness and prosperity. After this the 
bread and meat in the iiwo-dishes are shared out, and lastly 
the rest of the food, excepting the orolek, the people sitting 
on the ground and eating greedily after nearly a day's fast. 
All the remains and the bones are gathered together. When 
the meat from the head has been eaten, the kart places the 
bones in their natural order in the fire. The " little " sac- 
rifice tree with the objects attached to it is also burnt up. 
More wood is then laid on the fire, and over the crackling 
flames assistants hold the skin by sticks fastened to the head, 
the tail and the feet. The kart goes round the burning skin 
with a fire-brand in his left, and a " resin-bowl " in his right, 
and stands to the left of the fire, saying, as he pours the con- 
tents of the bowl into the fire: " Say not, that we burned an 
empty hide; a great resin-bowl we set up on it." The already 


mentioned " silver bridle " is also thrown upon the burning 
skin. Finally, the " stand " for the resin-bowls is also burnt 
up. The sheep-skin is not burnt by the Cheremiss, but given 
to the kart, who receives no other honorarium for his services; 
or it may be sold for the benefit of the sacrifice fund, or some- 
times, the former owner of the animal may have reserved the 
right to it. 

Together with the orolek-pieces, the candlestick, the other 
half of the " large " loaf, and three small ones without 
" noses " are left at the foot of the tree, as sacrifices have still 
to be made on the following morning. Neither is the fire ex- 
tinguished with the fall of evening, but allowed to illuminate 
the grove through the night. Early in the morning, at sun- 
rise, the so-called oro/^-sacrifice is carried out, in which those 
who have passed the night in the grove, take part. From the 
pieces of meat left over to this day, a small piece is cut again 
into two bowls as on the preceding day. The rest is sliced 
into a larger dish. From the large half-loaf a piece is also 
added to each smaller bowl. Besides these a bowl of drink is 
placed on the cloth before the tree, together with three small 
loaves, and the coins which were dug up on the day before. 

The candle is lit. The kart takes a brand in his left and a 
knife in his right hand, ringing as before three times on the 
axe, and reminding the god again of the shining sacrifice foal. 
Having encircled the fire and thrown in the brand, he stands 
before the tree and reads a prayer nearly as long as that said 
on the preceding day. After the prayer everyone shakes his 
hand in thanks. The priest himself now sacrifices the drinking- 
bowl, and two assistants the meat-bowls as on the day before, 
the prayers also being the same. The presenting of the sacri- 
ficial objects and the eating of the orolek-fltsh follows, with 
the former expressions of good wishes. All remains, even the 
candlestick, are thrown into the fire. The coins dug up 
(onapu^oksa, " the sacrifice tree coins ") to which a few copper 
coins have been added, are hidden again in the earth. While 


doing this, the kart says: " Sacrifice tree, do not say we left 
thee empty! " 

The ceremonies at the other trees are similar, the gods of 
the sun, thunder, wind, or some other god being the object 
of worship to be sacrificed to either on the same day or later 
in the festival. The tokens of honour to the different gods 
do not end, however, with the sacrifices, but during the whole 
of the festival, the fires burn before the different trees, as 
well as those lit quite early, a long prayer being read at them 
each day. Sometimes the " messenger of Jumo " is not sacri- 
ficed to until the close of the festival. Then, from all the 
priests standing under the sacrifice tree, a peculiar murmur 
of prayer is heard, the echo of which in the centuries-old grove 
cannot but awaken reverence. 

When the sacrificial fire, after the finish of the festival, is 
allowed to go out, the priest who has sacrificed at the same, 
sweeps together the ashes, saying: " Should a man blunder 
on to thee, may he become happy j if a dog, may he obtain 
a good weather-sense j if cattle, may they increase greatly." 
Those who wish, may still go to a specially reserved room in 
the village, where pancakes are eaten and mead and beer 
drunk, and the deities, to whom sacrifices have been made, 
are remembered. 

It is only natural that divergences may occur in the dif- 
ferent mer. This need not, however, depend on the distance 
between them} among the Western Cheremiss the same cus- 
toms as were described in the foregoing are followed. As an 
example of different usages, it may be mentioned that in some 
places, the " girdle " is bound fast, together with the objects 
attached to it, to the living sacrifice tree, on which it remains as 
a pledge until the following festival. The number of shav- 
ings inserted in the suldes-branches also varies (cf. the Scan- 
dinavian blotspdn). While the shavings are being whittled, it 
is noted in some places which side of them falls upward. 
Likewise the number of slices of meat and their order on the 


stick vary. Why the piece of liver should be placed on the 
point of the stick, while the others are placed in some kind of 
natural order, the Chcremiss could not explain. Could it be 
connected with the custom in some places of commencing the 
eating of sacrificial flesh with the liver? The most important 
incident in all sacrifices among the Volga peoples, as among 
the ancient Greeks, was the trial by water of the sacrificial 


IN THE earlier beliefs of the Lapps, the shaman (noidde) 
played a part important enough to justify the application 
of the term " shaman religion." Everywhere, and in every- 
thing where the wishes of the spirits had to be consulted, 
the shaman was a necessary medium. In addition, he filled 
at times the post of sacrificing priest. His fame was therefore 
great and his position among the people a leading one. The 
more powerful shamans possessed titles such as " the ruler 
of the mountains " or " the king of the mountains." Their 
fame spread wide among the Lapp villages and their names 
were preserved from generation to generation. 

The high reputation and position of the shaman among 
the Lapps appear also in an account from the beginning of the 
eighteenth century, in which it is stated that the shaman, on 
arriving at the tent of the Lapp, was met by the members of 
the family who, with heads bared, came out to meet him and 
thank him for the help he had already given them. He was 
given a new reindeer-skin to sit on, the best available food and 
drink were set before him, and when he remained overnight, 
the best sleeping-place was given up to him. It is further re- 
lated that the shaman received a tax, paid biannually. Be- 
sides this, he received a special reward for each service, its 
size depending on whether his aid had been requested for the 
finding of some lost object, for the curing of the sick, or to 
offer up sacrifice. In addition to money, articles of silver, 
or clothes, he was also given reindeer. Were he not served 
and looked after in every way, it was believed he could bring 
about many kinds of misfortune. 1 


But though the office of shaman brought thus both honour 
and riches, it was not open to everybody to take up this pro- 
fession, certain psychic qualities being necessary in its service. 
The gifts essential for a shaman often ran in the same family, 
appearing either early in childhood or also after some severe 
illness. 2 The Arctic peoples would seem to be specially, in- 
clined to nervous diseases. The merest trifle scares them, 
they faint on the slightest provocation or become furious, 
when they act like maniacs. 8 The shaman uses at times arti- 
ficial stimulants to assist the coming of a trance. The Lapp 
shaman-drink was prepared of soda boiled from birch-wood 
ash, or of seal-fat, or from many other materials. By drink- 
ing such liquids it was believed that the shaman could harden 
his body so that not even the sharpest knife could penetrate 
it. Neither could fire or water destroy a great shaman. He 
could even seat himself naked on a glowing fireplace and 
scatter fire and burning cinders over his body without the 
least danger. 4 

People with shamanistic talent were believed to be able to 
converse with the spirits living under the ground, these last 
appearing also in material form to them, in particular on the 
occasion of their being first called to the office of shaman. 
When these spirits, called noidde-gadse (" shaman people ") 
by the Lapps, offered their help to a young shaman, they 
laid stress on the fact of having served also his father and his 
forefathers. Should he evince disinclination to accept their 
services, they would use threats and even force, stories being 
related in which spirits pressed the persons in questions to such 
an extent that an early decay and even death resulted. Where 
the Lapp listened to their call, the spirits were extremely 
devoted to him, helping him and teaching him the arts of 
shamanism. This schooling generally took place either on 
the ground in some lonely place, or the pupil was led to the 
underworld to imbibe there the wisdom of former shamans. 
At the first call of the spirits, the missionaries relate that the 


Lapp behaved like one mentally afflicted, was unable to bear 
his wife, his children, or his servants, but forsaking these 
wandered around in the forests or on the mountains." 

The shaman could not, however, keep up his practice for 
the whole of his life. Generally he became unfit for office in 
his fiftieth year and was never employed afterwards in any 
important task. But he might lose his position even earlier, 
as a body free from any disfigurement was demanded of a 
shaman as sacrificer, even the losing of a tooth disqualifying 
him for office." 

As soon as a shaman had begun to practise, the spirits began 
to live more freely in his company. That these were the 
spirits of the dead is shown by the fact that they lived in the 
" holy mountains," from which the shaman could at will call 
them to his service. When travelling in strange districts they 
formed reliable guides. On hunting or fishing trips they were 
his trusty protectors, proving their allegiance by giving him 
rich hauls. Even his property and herds of reindeer were 
looked after by these willing servants. In addition, the shaman 
would seem to have possessed a special tutelary genius, as it 
is said that when about to proceed to a distant market-place, he 
would send a spirit to see whether the buyer had arrived. 
After a while this spirit would return and relate the circum- 
stances there. In the same way, when the shaman was away, 
the spirit would bring news of his family and herds. Coming 
events were also foretold by it to its owner. This spirit, which 
procured all manner of news for the shaman, was obviously 
the shaman's own mobile " soul." 7 

This tutelary, spirit the shaman could also use against his 
enemies. When two shamans quarrelled, e.g., at some fair 
when both were drunk, they would attempt to show one an- 
other which of them owned the more powerful spirit. They 
sat down opposite one another and began their arts. It was 
believed that their spirits fought with one another in the guise 
of reindeer-bulls. The one possessing the strongest "rein- 


deer-bull " emerged from the contest as the winner. " Sha- 
man-birds " were also used in these contests.* 

The spirit of the shaman was called sueje (originally 
" shadow ") by the Scandinavian Lapps. 9 The fact that this 
is supposed to be able to take on the shape of a reindeer, a fish, 
a bird, or a snake shows that the sueje-zmmai in Northern Lap- 
mark, corresponds with the shaman-animals which, according 
to the Southern Lapps, assist the shaman when, during a period 
of unconsciousness, he visits the underworld. Such animals 
were the " j<m;o-reindeer-bull," the " j»k?o-bird," the " jan?o- 
fish " and the " wtw-snake." 10 The missionary J. Kildal, 
who assumes that these animals lived in the holy mountains, 
points out how they differed from the other inhabitants of the 
mountain, the shaman possessing several of the latter, but 
only one " holy mountain bird," one " holy mountain fish " 
and one " holy mountain reindeer." 1L Another missionary 
draws attention to the fact that " the c jaivo-fi$h ' is not one 
of the gods of the underworld, although its services are called 
into account when journeying there. " " One can plainly see 
that these animals were soul-animals, in the shape of which 
the shaman's soul moved during its separation from the body. 
Like a reindeer-bull it hurried over the land, like a bird it 
flew through the air, like a fish it swam through the water, and 
like a snake it wriggled into the earth. The same idea is con- 
tained in the following account by J. Kildal: " When two 
shamans send their ' reindeer-bulls ' to fight together, the re- 
sult is that according as the competing ' reindeer ' win or lose, 
the shaman owning the same wins or loses; should one ' rein- 
deer ' break off a horn from the other, the shaman owning the 
injured one becomes ill; should one 'reindeer* kill another, 
the shaman, whose ' reindeer ' is killed, dies. In these combats 
it occurs also, that the shamans owning the * reindeer ' become 
as tired and exhausted as their ' reindeer.' " The same author 
relates also that when the shaman falls into a trance, "he 
journeyed in his ( j«wo-fish ' to the underworld, and when 


he wakes from his trance, the ( fish ' has brought him back 
uninjured to his body, again." 13 Jessen is able further to affirm 
that " the louder a shaman can sing, the longer is his snake." " 
The Finns also relate in their tales how the Lapps fly in the 
shape of birds through the air; when one of these is shot 
down, the Lapp tumbles to the ground. These soul-animals 
were sometimes pictured on the magic drums. 

The power of thus taking on different forms is essential for 
the shaman's soul to overcome difficulties particularly in the 
underworld, and especially when bringing back the soul of 
someone sick, which during the time it moved about without 
a body has been carried off to the underworld by the spirits. 
These last give back with great reluctance the souls falling 
into their power. The Lapps believed them to know before- 
hand when the shaman had decided to visit them. On such 
occasions they bolted their doors well, but a clever shaman 
could always hit upon some little crevice through which his 
soul could creep in. Often a severe fight was waged between 
the inhabitants of the underworld and the shaman, until the 
former, against a fixed sacrifice, were willing to compromise. 
When the bargain had been concluded, the shaman's soul 
brought the soul in question back to its home " over mountains 
and valleys, with such speed that the stones and sand flew 
about." " 

The shaman must also go to the underworld when accom- 
panying the soul of some dead person, and when he had to 
bring thence the soul of some departed relative, e.g., to herd 
the cattle. 18 

Besides taking the form of the above mentioned animals, 
believed also by the Samoyeds to be the method of super- 
natural journeying adopted by their shaman, the Lapps be- 
lieved that the soul of the shaman could fly in the form of a 
whirlwind, relics of a similar belief having also been noted 
in Finland. 

Of flying in the form of fire, an interesting report comes 


from the Norwegian Lapp territory. When two Lapps quar- 
relled, they sat down on the ground and began to sing that 
their saivo would send them their " light," which was believed 
to be a flame of the Aurora Borealis. When these " lights " 
met in the sky, they fought with one another, during which 
battle the shamans lay on the ground, practising intensely their 
art. A terrible noise and crackling in the sky accompanied 
these duels. The one whose " light " gradually, faded, fell 
ill j were it totally extinguished, the shaman died." From this 
method of flying through the air like a flame, the Finnish 
term " Fire-Lapp " is derived. 

The most important instrument of the shaman was his drum, 
the skin of which during the close of the heathen period was 
always furnished with numerous drawings and figures, painted 
on with the juice from alder -bark or with reindeer blood. 
Often, the heaven with the sun and moon and other gods, 
the earth with tents and storehouses, forest and domestic 
animals, fishing-waters, etc., and the underworld with its in- 
habitants were pictured on the drum. The pictures were not 
always alike, neither was their order the same on all drums. 
In the shape of the drum, not only in regard to size, but also 
to construction, dissimilarities may be found. G. Hallstrom, 
who has studied Lapp drums in many museums, classifies them 
according to their construction into two chief groups, of which 
one may be called sieve-shaped, and the other bowl-shaped. 18 

The sieve-shaped drum, which seems to have been much 
more widely used than the bowl-drum, was prepared by 
stretching the skin over a band of wood of about the width 
of the palm of the hand. The wood had, if possible, to be 
without knots, and the ends were bent together and fastened 
with wooden plugs or twisted twigs. The form of the sieve- 
drum was generally oval, one end being seldom broader than 
the other. The handle was a narrow cross-piece of wood 
fastened to the back. 

The bowl-drum was fashioned out of a hollowed piece of 


wood so that this formed a rounded bowl, over the open 
mouth of which the skin was stretched. Two long, narrow 
holes were cut in the bottom, leaving a handle between. It 
was further decorated with carved figures and small holes, 
which strengthened the sound. The body was oval in shape, 
of an egg-form. The size of the bowl-drum varied little, as 
it was always made of one tree, while the sieve-shaped drums 
were at times extremely large. 

The variety of these drums appears also in the pictures on 
the skin. On the sieve-drum these usually formed a common 
circle in the midst of which the sun was placed. The latter 
is generally square, four fine rays reaching out from each 
corner; only seldom is its shape round. The surface of the 
bowl-drum is again divided by horizontal lines into two or 
more parts. Over these lines figures stand in a row, the upper 
being the Heaven gods. On these drums the sun does not 
take a dominating position as it does on the sieve-drums. 
Mixed forms are also to be found. 

Further, the drums vary in their ornamentation. The sieve- 
drum, which resembles the Siberian drums, is, like the latter, 
often furnished with small metal-wire belts or chains, on 
which various silver, brass, and iron jingles are hung. These 
belts and chains are fastened to the back of the drums either 
to the wooden band or the handle. The ornaments fastened 
to the bowl-drum are generally the claws of wild animals, the 
ears or hair of forest animals, etc. Often these decorations 
are missing, when they are replaced by the figures cut in the 
handle. This last-named drum would seem to be a Lapp 
original, and according to our present knowledge, was known 
chiefly in Lule and Torne Lapmark. 

Besides ornaments and bells, a beautifully carved hammer 
with two branches, made of reindeer-horn and often covered 
with skin, belonged with the drum, and at least in later times, 
also a ring or bunch of rings or another metal object called 
arpa (" die ") by the Finnish Lapps. 



The shaman held his drum in great respect ; to prevent it 
being looked on by anybody, it was often kept in a case of skin 
in the inner part of the tent. According to the Lapps, the 
drum was desecrated should a woman touch 
it. These last were not even allowed to go 
over a road, along which a drum had been 
transported, for the next three days. Were 
a woman to do this, the Lapps believed death 
or some other misfortune would follow. 
But, if for some reason or other, a crossing 
could not be prevented, the woman must p IC 

sacrifice a ring of brass to the drum. As a Shaman Hammer 
matter of precaution, the drum was taken out 
through the backdoor and, in removal, it was placed in the last 
sleigh. Where possible it was taken along roads never trav- 
elled before by anybody. Were the sanctity of the drum 
violated in any way, it was regarded as useless. Were it 
angered, it was believed to be able to express its dissatisfaction 
by weeping or threats. The older a drum handed down from 
one generation to another became, the greater the honour ac- 
corded it. 1 * 

At the close of the heathen period, the magic drum became 
general in use. As Christians with the Bible, says Friis, so 
nearly every Lapp family possessed a drum. From the Lapps 
converted by him, von Westen received over a hundred magic 
drums. Yet every Lapp who owned a drum was not actually 
a shaman, but used it for purposes of divination, for his own 
benefit. Whatever the Lapp was about to engage in, removal, 
hunting, fishing, or if he desired to know the whereabouts of 
his reindeer lost in the mountains, or the source of some trouble 
in his life, or whenever he wished to appease his gods by 
sacrifice, he turned always to his drum, asking its advice. 40 

When a Lapp thus wished to divine the future in some mat- 
ter or other, he clad himself as for a feast. He washed, 
combed his hair, and put on his best clothes. The same was 


done also by the others taking part in this holy act. The 
neighbours came in their red and blue jackets, ornamented with 
rings, gleaming neck-chains, etc. When beginning the act 
the questioner knelt down on his left knee, holding the drum 
horizontally in his left hand, and placed the above mentioned 
ring first on the picture of the sun, beginning then to tap 
carefully round it with the hammer so that the ring danced 
gently up and down. At the same time he sang a song. If 
the ring now moved round in the direction of the sun, it was 
regarded as a good sign, the opposite foreboding an accident, 
sickness, or other misfortune. From the figure on which the 
ring remained for a longer period towards the end, the answer 
to the question asked of the spirits was decided. On hunting 
or fishing trips a good haul was assured if the ring paused at 
the figures of a forest animal or a fishing-water. Where the 
ring paused at the drawing of a god, it was a sign that this god 
wished a sacrifice. In asking whether a sacrificial animal was 
pleasing to a god, a hair from the animal's neck was wound 
round the ring. Should the ring not pause now at the figure 
of the god in question, it was believed that the god would not 
accept the animal. Another was then chosen, and still others, 
the same procedure being gone through until the ring showed 
the sacrifice to be pleasing. When the ring moved over to 
the figures representing the underworld or jumped off the 
drum, it meant death or some other great misfortune. 21. 

The above was not, however, the original purpose of the 
drum. Certain of the missionaries relate that when the sha- 
man earlier acted as above, he excited himself by banging 
violently on the drum with the hammer to such an extent that 
at last he would fall into a trance. In a description written 
down in Swedish Lapmark it is stated that when a Lapp 
wished to know of something happening in a distant neigh- 
bourhood, he laid the brass ring on the figure of the sun and 
commenced beating the drum with the forked drumstick. As 
the ring jumped from one figure to another, backwards and 


forwards, the shaman sang a peculiar song in which all the 
other Lapps present, male or female, joined in. The men 
had, however, to sing louder than the women. In the song, 
the name of the mountain in which the spirits capable of giving 
the desired information were supposed to dwell, was repeated 
every now and then; similarly, the name of the district from 
which news was desired. As the shaman beat longer on his 
drum and sang louder and louder, he became more and more 
excited until the ring paused at one spot, the face of the drum- 
mer darkened, and he sank on his knees still increasing the 
volume of his song, until finally he dropped to the ground 
like one dead. At this point care had to be taken that no 
article touched the shaman's unconscious body, as, if this 
happened, the Lapps believed that the spirit would no longer 
return to it. The men and women present had to continue 
singing until the shaman returned to consciousness. He was 
then reminded of the case in question and the matter concern- 
ing which knowledge was required. The shaman was at this 
time tired out and perspiring, as though he had performed 
some heavy task, and he now began to relate all he had dis- 
covered during his trance. 2 * 

According to this last description, the Lapps used the drum 
for two different purposes at the same time, but generally 
the two uses were kept separate. As an instrument of divina- 
tion, the drum was used only for unimportant questions, e.g., 
success on hunting or fishing trips. For these, any male 
person could make use of his drum, without being an actual 
shaman. But in the case of serious misfortunes, such as severe 
sickness, the cause of these was sought in an unconscious con- 
dition, in the attaining of which the drum was used as an 
excitant. Here a real shaman had to be applied to, as he 
only could visit the spirits dwelling under the earth, from 
whom sickness and misfortunes in general were supposed to 
emanate. The cause of an illness was either the desire of 
some earlier departed person for the company of a relative, 


or a punishment for some misdemeanour or the omitting of a 
duty. The collapse of the sick person was due to the stealing 
of his soul by the underground spirits, or the carrying away 
of some article in close contact with him, e.g., a shoe, headgear, 
or a mitten. It was the duty of the shaman to discover what 
the spirits of the departed required, why they were angry, 
and by what means they could be appeased, so that the sick 
would be left in peace. 28 

When, in cases of sickness, the shaman was about to under- 
take a voyage to the underworld, he called together, according 
to Leem, his helping spirits, which latter arrived invisible to 
others. It was necessary that two women should be present 
in holiday costume, with kerchiefs over their heads but with- 
out belts, a man without cap and belt, and a half -grown girl. 
When all these were assembled, the shaman bared his head, 
opened his belt and unfastened his shoe-strings, covered his 
face, and placing his hands by his sides bent his body backward 
and forward, shouting: "Harness the reindeer! — Push out 
the boat! " Intoxicated with gin he began thereafter to pluck 
brands out of the fire with his naked hands, strike himself on 
the legs with an axe and swing the latter with both hands 
over his shoulders; then running three times round the as- 
sisting females with the axe, he sank unconscious to the floor. 
In this state, no one might touch him, and he must be watched 
over so closely that not even a fly could settle on him. The 
soul was believed to be wandering in the underworld, some- 
where in the holy mountains, while the body lay unconscious. 
The women present whispered together, trying to guess where 
the spirit at that moment was. Should they hit on the exact 
place while going through the names of the holy places, the 
shaman moved either an arm or a leg. At the same time they 
tried by intensive concentration to follow all that the shaman 
might hear or see. When the latter at last began to awaken 
to life and with a weak voice faltered the beginning of the 
song, the women also raised their voices and joined in. Fi- 


nally, the shaman declared the cause of the sickness, and the 
deity to whom sacrifice had to be made, and informed them 
of the nature of the animal and the place for the sacrifice, 
guaranteeing that the sick would recover within a certain 
period. 2 * 

Leem does not, however, make any mention of the magic 
drum, whereas Jessen expressly says that the shaman used this 
instrument as a means of invoking the trance. 25 In this way, 
the missionary Olsen also describes the Lapp shaman's falling 
into a trance, or " diving," as they themselves call it. The 
latter further points out that the shaman had always to have 
as assistant another person to awaken him out of the trance. 
This assistant was a woman, where possible, a virgin. The 
duty of the woman was to seek out the soul of the shaman 
as it wandered in the interior of the mountains or under the 
lakes, and lead it back to the body. Should the awaken er be 
incapable of fulfilling this duty, the shaman would never 
wake again from his trance. Other antagonistic shamans 
could also lead the shaman*s soul astray during its wanderings 
in the underworld and in this way prevent it from returning. 
Many shamans are said to have remained on their dangerous 
journey. It is not therefore surprising that the shaman, on 
his return to life, praised his awakener with many flattering 

terms. 88 

Like the Siberian shaman, the Lapp nmdde used his drum 
originally only as a medium of excitation. The use of the 
magic drum as a method of divination is obviously of later 

In the oldest accounts of the shamanizing of the Lapps 
which have been preserved, dating from the thirteenth century, 
the magic drum is spoken of solely as a means of excitation. 
In these accounts the wonderful manner of the Lapps of 
prophesying coming events, of following events in distant 
places, of finding hidden treasures, of resisting sickness — 
even, at times, death, are all described. The following in- 


cident is related as an example. Certain Norwegian merchants 
had once visited the Lapps and were sitting at table when the 
hostess was suddenly stricken by illness and died. While the 
guests were expressing their fear that some envious shaman 
had caused her death, and even the Lapps in their confusion 
did not know what to do, a shaman rose, spread out a cloth 
Under which he placed himself, and began to shamanise. 
Soon he lifted up an object like a sieve on which was portrayed 
a whale, a reindeer with a sleigh, and a boat with oars, these 
being the means used by the shaman's soul in hurrying over 
the high snow-clad mountains and the deep seas. Having 
sung and danced a long time on the floor, he finally fell 4own, 
becoming black in the face. Foam appeared on his lips, his 
stomach burst open, and, with a fearful cry, life left him. 
The visitors then turned to another shaman for knowledge 
of the fate of the two lying dead. This shaman accomplished 
his task with such success that the hostess arose quite whole 
and related the fate of the first shaman. When the first 
shaman, in the shape of a whale, had hurried over a lake, 
an antagonistic shaman had seized the opportunity to lie in 
wait for his enemy in the form of a sharp post, with the result 
that the belly of the whale was split. This accident had 
shown itself on the body of the shaman. 27 

The objects mentioned in the above as being portrayed on 
the drum are probably the very earliest pictures on the Lapp 
drum, their object being originally, like the pictures on the 
Siberian drum, to give wings to the shaman's fantasy by re- 
minding him of the means of locomotion which his soul was 
believed to need, and the forms of the animals in whose 
shape he was supposed to make the journey to the underworld. 
On some of the Lapp drums, these pictures may be seen to 
occupy a central position, round which, during the develop- 
ment of the drum as an instrument of divination, later draw- 
ings have gradually been grouped. 

Shamans, who with the help of magic drums have fallen 


into trances, have been met with also among the Ugrian 
peoples. Here also the shaman possesses a special protecting 
spirit, " head spirit," said to protect him on his journeys to 
the other world. In tales, the " bear-like spirit " of the 

e shaman is often mentioned, this being doubtless a metamor- 

phosis of his soul. Images of such " soul-animals " are very 
likely the animal-like objects of wood or metal found in the 
graves of shamans. The Ostiak shaman, like those of the 
Samoyeds and of the majority of the Siberian peoples, seems, 
at least in the more northern districts, to have attired himself 
for his functions in special apparel, a fact unknown in the very 
oldest accounts of the Lapp shaman. From the scanty existing 

' accounts of the earlier Ostiak shamans it would seem that 

they, in general, and even in the matter of their drums, were 
nearly related to those of the Samoyeds and the other Siberian 
peoples. 28 

The other Finno-Ugric peoples who possibly possessed 
shamans at an earlier date have for a long period used more 
modern methods of prophesying their fate. Not even the 
earlier accounts contain any mention of the use of magic drums 
among them, And yet, the author of the " Life of St. 
Stephen " (d. 1396) mentions that the Siryan magicians could 
" on that same day, and at the very moment " know " what was 
happening in a distant neighbourhood, in another town, in the 
ninth land." 29 Most probably this happened in an ecstatic 
state. A similar condition is perhaps intended by the phrase 
in a Russian Chronicle, in which it is related how a Nov- 
gorodian visited a Chudic magician in 1071, the latter " lying 

f dumb" while he invoked the spirits to his aid. 3 * For the 

shaman's falling into a trance, the Finns have to this day a 
special expression {langeta loveen, " fall into trance ") which 
may, however, have been used originally with regard to the 
Lapp shaman. Further it may be pointed out that the Lapp 
name noidde (" shaman ") occurs also in the Finnish noita. 









MOST dominant among the Siberian peoples is the great 
Altaic race, the original dwelling-place of which ap- 
pears to have been in the vicinity of the Altai Mountains, but 
which at the present time is distributed over an enormous 
stretch of territory in Central and North Asia, the Near East 
and Eastern Europe. The languages spoken by these scattered 
peoples are divided into three large groups: Turco-Tatar, 
Mongolian, and Mandshu-Tungus. 

Besides the Turks proper, or Osmans, the closely related 
Turkomans to the east of the Caspian Sea and in the Stavropol 
Government, and the Eastern Turkish tribes in East Turkes- 
tan, the Turco-Tatar group comprises further, the Tatars 
around the Volga, whence pioneers have migrated as far as 
to Western Siberia, the Tatars in the Crimea and other dis- 
tricts m Russia, the Bashkirs in the central Ural districts, the 
Nogaiyes in the Crimea and Northern Caucasia and other Tatar 
tribes up to south of the Caspian Sea, the Kirghis in Russia 
and Turkestan, the Altai Tatars in the neighbourhood of the 
Altai, where they form a number of smaller groups with dif- 
ferent dialects, — Soyots, Karagass, the Abakan, Cholym, and 
Baraba Tatars, — the Teleuts, the Lebed Tatars and the Ku- 
mandines, and also the Yakuts by the River Lena in North 
Siberia, and the Chuvash from the bend of the Volga in 

The Mongolians, whose original home was by Lake Baikal, 
and from whom Mongolia derives its name, have assimilated 
different Turkish tribes, which have appropriated the Mongo- 
lian language. In the course of raids of conquest the Mon- 
golians have also overflowed to other districts, amongst others, 


to Afghanistan, where they are now termed Moghols. Closely 
related to the Mongolians are the Kalmucks to the south of 
the Altai, in the southern stretches of the Tientshan Mountains 
and by the Volga in Russia, whither inner disturbances caused 
them to wander in the seventeenth century. Further, the 
Buriats around the Caspian Sea belong to the Mongolian group. 

The Mandshu-Tungus stocks, which are composed of many 
closely related lesser groups with different languages, appear 
to have migrated from the districts around the Amur River. 
At the present time tribes belonging to these stocks dwell over 
wide stretches in North-East Siberia, reaching from the Yenisei 
Valley to the Pacific Ocean, and from Northern China and 
Lake Baikal to the Arctic Ocean. The Tungus stocks dwelling 
in the Amur Valley include the Goldes, the Orotchones, the 
Manegres, etc., and also the more distantly related Solones, 
Mandshus and Dahurs, of which the last-named have for the 
most part appropriated the Mongolian language. The Tungus 
dwelling on the shores of the Northern Arctic Ocean and the 
Pacific are called Lamutes. The Dolgans dwelling around the 
Khatanga River, and at present wholly under the influence of 
the Yakut language and culture, appear also to have been 
originally Tungus. 

The primary cause of the present widely scattered state of 
the Altaic race would seem to be found in their restless, migra- 
tory mode of life, and their lust for war. Tribes belonging to 
this race first appeared in Europe with the great migration of 
the Huns, whose barbaric advance-guards are described al- 
ready by Ptolemaios in the second century. When these re- 
turned to Asia after their martial exploits, certain Turkish 
tribes remained behind, the remains of which are the Bolgars, 
or, to call them by their present name, the Chuvashes by the 
Volga. Early in history, Turkish peoples in Asia have built 
up powerful empires, attaining a certain, though short-lived, 
prosperity. Their chiefs have ruled everywhere in Asia. 
An important centre of development seems to have existed 


at some period south of Lake Baikal on the Selenga River and 
its tributary, the Orkhon, where a number of ancient Turkish 
inscriptions on the gravestones of departed chiefs have been 
discovered. These inscriptions, translated in 1893 by Prof. 
Vilhelm Thomsen, originate from the Turk dynasty (Chinese, 
Tu-kiu, 680-74 $ A.D.) and the subsequent period of pros- 
perity among the Uigurs (745-840). The Uigurs came at 
that time into contact with missionaries from Syria, who 
preached the Nestorian and Mamchean doctrines, and also 
with Buddhist missionaries from China. When, later, a part 
of the Uigurs moved to the districts around the Tientshan, 
where they took up agriculture and commerce, an important 
centre of culture arose in East Turkestan (900-1200 a.d.). 
Through the Uigurs other Mongolian tribes came into con- 
tact with the Christian Faith. The influence of Syrian culture 
is evident in the Syrian characters of Uigurean literature, re- 
mains of which were dug up in excavations commenced in 1905 
at the town of Turf an in East Turkestan. During the period 
of Manicheamsm, and probably during a still earlier period, 
ancient Persian culture affected the religious views of the Mon- 
golians and the Turco-Tatars dwelling at Sajan and the Altai, 
as will be seen from certain mythological names {i.e., Mon- 
golian Hormusda, Kalmuck Hormustan = Persian Ahura- 
Mazda; Buriat Arima = Persian Ahriman; Altai-Tatar and 
Kirghis Kudai ("God") = Persian Hudaij Altai-Tatar Aina 
("an evil spirit dwelling under the earth ") = Persian 

Great upheavals and new groupings of tribes took place 
when the great Mongolian ruler Temudjin, or as he is more 
often called, Jenghiz Khan or Chingiskan (1162-1227), ac- 
complished his ambitious schemes of conquest. These migra- 
tions of tribes pressed also the Turks farther west, gradually 
even to Europe. After the Mongolian conquest, different 
Tatar tribes remained behind in Russia, represented by the 
Tatars at present dwelling there. Jenghiz Khan himself was 


extremely liberal in religious matters, tolerating all the dif- 
ferent religious sects. His successors, notably Kubilai (1260- 
1294), whose capital became Pekin, were, however, more in- 
clined towards Buddhism, which seems also to have exercised 
a great influence over the Mongolians. But with the fall of 
the Mongol dynasty in China in 1368, Buddhism appears to 
have gone out of fashion, and paganism blossomed anew, until 
Buddhism again, in the shape of Lamaism, won over in the 
seventeenth century fervent disciples among both Mongolians 
and Kalmucks, the last-named setting up during their war in 
Thibet the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader. Eager mis- 
sionaries arose also in the ranks of the people, and gradually, 
by fines and other punishments, the pagan sacrifices were over- 
come. For political reasons, however, many old folk-customs 
were tolerated by giving them a new meaning. At the present 
day, the orthodox people abhor their old shamanistic religion, 
the " Black Religion," which has almost entirely been sup- 
planted by Lamaism, the " Yellow Religion," with Thibetan 
books of devotion. Since the beginning of the nineteenth 
century, the Buriats south and east of the Baikal, and a part of 
the Tungus dwelling there, have also been led to accept the 
" Yellow Religion." The older Buddhistic culture, which 
.penetrated from China, has left among the Central Asian 
tribes a number of myths, in which the Buddhist names of the 
gods appear borrowed from the Sanscrit and not from the 

Of the tribes belonging to the Turco-Tatar group, the ma- 
jority, have gradually declared for Islam, which had already 
in the eighth century penetrated to a Turkish tribe, forcing its 
way via Turan into the Near East. Only the Soyotes in Mon- 
golia and the Uigurs, the latter lapsing little by little into 
Chinamen, are Buddhists; the Yakuts, part of the Tungus in 
Trans-Baikal and the Chuvashes, being, like many of the 
Tatars in the Minusinsk District and on the Volga, members of 
the Russian Orthodox Church. 


Traces of the religion conformed to at one time by the whole 
of the Altaic race, shamanism, have adhered to many of the 
converted tribes, such as the Yakuts, Buriats, part of the 
Kirghis, etc. In its primitive state, this religion still flourishes 
among the Tungus and the tribes related to them among the 
more Northern Yakuts, among the Buriats west of the Baikal, 
and among a few small Tatar tribes at the Altai. 

An important field of investigation is moreover found 
among all the peoples who, in different ways, have been in close 
contact with the Altaic race. The peoples, related to the Finns, 
on the River Ob, the Ostiaks and Voguls, have been at least 
in their southern districts influenced by the Tatars. The 
Tungus, again, have transmitted many of their beliefs and 
customs to the eastern Samoyeds and to some Old Asian tribes, 
such as, for example, the nearly extinct Yenisei Ostiaks and 
the Yukagires. Asiatic shamanism exists still among the 
Chukchee, Koriaks and the Kamchadales. The Kamchadales 
have, however, to a great part become Russianised in recent 
times. Among the Tungus tribes by the Amur River, and 
equally among the East Mongolians, Chinese culture also has 
in some degree left traces. 

Concerning the means of existence of the Altaic races, with 
which the religious beliefs stand in connection, the tribe most 
completely adhering to its primitive mode of life is the Tungus. 
They exist in the great primeval forests by hunting, or wander 
about with reindeer, riding on the backs of these; on the banks 
of rivers and on the sea-coasts, fishing is also an important 
means of existence On the same plane of civilization are also 
the other North Siberian peoples. The tribes dwelling on the 
great steppes of Central Asia have from prehistoric times been 
nomads; part of the Soyots near the Altai are reindeer-nomads. 
For the majority the horse and the sheep are the domestic 
animals of most importance. In some districts, chiefly in the 
south, agriculture has recently been taken up. 

The oldest information concerning the Mongolian and 


Tatar religions, is found in accounts of travels by certain Euro- 
peans, sent out in the thirteenth century to Central Asia. One 
of these was the Franciscan monk, Johannes de Piano Carpini, 
sent by Pope Innocent IV to the land of the Mongolians. He 
journeyed over the Volga as far as to Karakorum on the 
Orkhon, the capital founded by Dgedei, the son oi Jenghiz 
Khan, in which town he remained over one winter. His 
experiences he describes in his Historia Mongolorwm. An- 
other important book of travel of the same period was written 
by the Franciscan Vilhelm Rubruquis (Ruysbroeck), who 
travelled in 1253-1255 as the ambassador of the French King, 
Louis IX, in nearly, the same districts as did Carpini. Of 
the accounts mentioned above, a critical edition appeared in 
Recueil de voyages et de memoir es publie -par la societe de 
Geografhie, tome IV, Paris, 1839. The well-known travel- 
ler, Marco Polo, sojourned also for a longer period among 
the Mongolians, going out in 1271 as the Pope's ambassador to 
visit Kubilai-Khanj serving the latter at one time in the capacity 
of governor, until in 1292 he was accorded permission to return 
to his native country. His De regionibus orientalibus, touch- 
ing in some degree also on the religion of the Mongolians, 
has been translated into many languages. A few older frag- 
ments of knowledge concerning Mongolian religious beliefs are 
to be found in certain Chinese, Mohammedan, and Mongolian 
sources, amongst others, in the Mongolian Chronicle of 
Ssanang Ssetsen, translated into German by the Academician 
I. J. Schmidt (Geschkhte der Ost-Mongolen und ihres Fur- 
stenhmses, 1829). 

The oldest reports are, however, so few and insignificant, 
that it is not possible to build up any clear representation of the 
ancient religion of the Altaic race by their aid alone. But as 
the majority of the scattered peoples have retained the old 
traditions handed down by their ancestors nearly to the present 
day, even in many cases right on to our time, it has still been 
possible to gather together an imposing mass of material for 


investigation. The foundation of these, at present compara- 
tively large, collections, was already laid in the seventeenth 
century, and later, after the Russian migration to Siberia. 
Among some of the tribes, notably the Buriats and Yakuts, 
native investigators have played an important part in this work. 
Some of the northern tribes, in particular the Tungus living in 
their inaccessible primeval forests, are, however, up to the 
present day, still very little known. 



THE VARIOUS streams of civilization, coining at dif- 
ferent times and from different sources, which have 
crossed and recrossed Central Asia, have brought with them 
differing conceptions of the world we live in and the universe. 
The newest arrivals, usurping as they, do the supreme authority, 
have either altogether brushed aside the old beliefs, or, finding 
in them some point of contact, have assimilated them. Matters 
being thus, it is often extremely difficult to decide which fea- 
tures represent older views, and what the original world pic- 
ture of the Altaic race was like. 

To obtain some idea of how primitive peoples form their 
idea of the world, we will examine the strange, but to them 
quite natural, conception of the world of the Yenisei Ostiaks. 
According to their ideas, the world is divided into three parts: 
Above, the sky; in the middle, the earth peopled by men; 
below, the kingdom of the dead; but all these parts are united 
by the "Holy Water," which, beginning in Heaven, flows 
across the earth to Hades. This water is the great Yenisei 
River. 1 The Samoyeds also, who have learned to speak of 
different storeys in the sky, declare the Yenisei River to flow 
from the lake in the sixth storey of Heaven. In their tales, 
the Yenisei Ostiaks describe how the shaman rows his boat in 
Heaven and how he returns along the river at such terrific 
speed that the wind whistles through him. 8 It may be diffi- 
cult for us to understand these pictures, but to the Yenisei 


Ostiak nothing can be more natural. Do they not know from 
experience that the earth is slanting, that the rushing river 
which is the dwelling-place of this fisher tribe comes from 
" above " and flows " down " into the depths of Hades? The 
south, like many other North Siberian peoples, they call " that 
above," the north " that below." The Yenisei is to them 
the centre of the world, as on its banks or tributaries they place 
all the peoples known to them, and thus would they draw a 
map of the world, had they a Ptolemy, amongst them. 

The peoples living in Central Asia imagine the world some- 
times as a circular disc, sometimes as a square. In an Altaic 
tale in which a Lama creates the earth with his staff, the world 
is said to have been originally circular but later to have altered, 
so that it is now square. 8 Thus do the Yakuts also imagine 
the world. In their folk-poetry the four corners of both 
Heaven and Earth are often mentioned. The winds, for ex- 
ample, are said to arise in the four corners of the sky.* Georgi 
relates how the Tungus made a picture of the earth which 
was in the form of a little square of iron plate. 5 This idea, 
common to many peoples, is closely connected with the four 
cardinal points. Even in the world pictures of the civilized 
peoples of Southern Asia it is quite general. In a certain Yakut 
tale, which speaks of the octagonal earth, the points of the 
compass have been doubled.* 

Side by side with this idea of a square world, the idea 
of a circular one is equally, common. It is often pictured 
as round, and as such it appears also to the eye. Similarly 
shaped is the sky stretching over the earth. In the hero 
tales of the Yakuts the outer edge of the earth is said to 
touch the rim of a hemispherical sky. A certain hero rode 
out once to the place where earth and sky touched. Simi- 
larly, in some districts, the Buriats conceive the sky to be 
shaped like a great overturned cauldron, rising and falling in 
constant motion. In rising, an opening forms between the 
sky and the edge of the earth. A hero, who happened at such 


a time to place his arrow between the edge of the earth and 
the rim of the sky was enabled thus to penetrate outside the 

Between Heaven and Hades, the earth peopled by men 
forms the centre of the universe. Often the earth is called 
" The Middle Place." Sometimes this " Middle Place " is, 
in a more confined sense, the country of the people using the 
term. Mongolia, among other regions, is a world-centre of 
this description. The Chinese also call their country u the 
Central Empire." Examples of this belief, born in the begin- 
ning from the anthropocentric view of the world peculiar to 
man, are to be found also among the ancient civilized peoples. 

From the fact that Mongolia is a plateau in which number- 
less rivers flowing in different directions have their sources, 
the Mongols derive their belief that they live on the peak of a 
world, imagined to be like a great mound, other peoples liv- 
ing on its sides below them. 

In addition to the simplified idea that the world is three- 
storeyed: Heaven, Earth and Hades, Altaic folk-poetry 
speaks often of a many-storeyed world. Especially is the 
sky believed to contain hemispheres, one higher than another; 
generally three, seven, or nine are spoken of, but sometimes 
even more. Most common is the conception of a seven- 
storeyed Heaven, obviously derived from the Babylonian pic- 
ture of Heaven, in which the sun and the moon and five planets 
are situated in hemispheres placed one over the other. As 
the complement to these seven heavens, an equal number of 
storeys are pictured down below. Where the sky is regarded 
as nine-storeyed, Hades is also divided into nine gradually de- 
scending parts. That a belief of this description has actually 
sprung from a belief in layers of stars, appears from an Altai 
Tatar tale, in which the sun and moon are placed in different 
storeys of the sky. The Moon old man lives in the sixth and 
the Sun mother in the seventh Heaven. 8 The primitive 
peoples of Siberia do not, however, know the reasons for this 


division, neither can they explain the significance o£ any 
Heaven. The most northern peoples place in the different 
storeys of Heaven, landscapes from the earth — mountains, 
lakes, tundras, snowfields, etc. The Samoyeds relate in their 
shaman tales that there is a lake in the first storey of Heaven, 
a flat plain in the second, the third is covered with numerous 
heights like little volcanoes, the fourth is formed like a roof 
of little icicles, the sixth contains a great lake, from which 
springs the Yenisei. Of the remaining storeys, of which there 
are in some districts altogether nine, they have very little 
knowledge. 6 The Yakuts believe that in the lower regions of 
the sky there are also animals, kept by the inhabitant spirits 
as food. \ 

Although the conception of fixed storeys in the sky, among 
the primitive peoples of Siberia, bears without doubt the im- 
press of foreign influence, we cannot with any certainty declare 
that the conception of higher and lower storeys in the sky 
might not also originate amongst a people living in a state 
of nature. The Chukchee speak of several Heavens, placed 
one above the other, so that the floor of the highest is the 
roof of the next. All these worlds are joined by holes situated 
under the Polar Star. 10 

Whatever the original idea of the edge of the earth may 
have been, later the idea became general that the earth is sur- 
rounded on all sides by an ocean. This is an essential feature 
in all the world pictures of the Asiatic peoples. The Greek 
Oceanos corresponds to it, and in Snorri's Edda we read : " The 
earth is circular in shape and outside it is the deep sea." 

But if the flat earth has around and under it the deep, 
mysterious, primordial ocean, what is it that prevents the earth 
from sinking into the depths? To this question also, the folk- 
tales attempt to give an answer. 

When the mighty Olgen, so say the Altaic peoples, created 
the earth on the waters, he placed under the disc of the earth, 
in order to support it, three great fish, one in the centre and 


one at each side. The head of the middle fish is directed 
towards the north and thus, when it presses its head down, 
floods occur in the north. Should the fish sink too low, the 
whole earth will be inundated. A rope is attached to the gills 
of the fish, the end reaching to Heaven, where it is attached 
to three posts. In this way, whenever desired, the head of the 
fish can be lowered or raised. This is the special duty of 
the Bodhisattva Mandishire. When he takes the rope from the 
first post, the earth slants towards the north, causing floods 
there, but were he to slip the rope from the third post, the 
flood would reach over all the earth. 11 

In certain Buriat districts, one large fish only is mentioned 
as the supporter oi the earth. When for any reason it changes 
its position, earthquakes occur. 1 * 

The idea of one or more giant fish as supporters of the 
earth is general also in East European legends, 13 while in 
Jewish myths the fish-shaped Leviathan bears the foundations 
of the earth. This belief, as the name Mandishire ( = Man- 
jucri) hints at, has come to Central Asia from India, where a 
similar belief has prevailed for ages. 

. Probably with a current of civilization from India through 
China, tales have reached Central Asia of a world-supporting 
frog, which animal here takes the place of the unknown turtle. 
If its " finger " even moves the earth quakes. This belief has 
spread even to the Tungus beyond the Baikal. 1 * 

In the tales of the Kirghis, and among the West Siberian, 
Volga, and Caucasian Tatars, it is related that the world is sup- 
ported by a great bull. This idea has spread even among the 
Finnish tribes along the Volga. Under this bull there is often 
a support on which the bull stands. The Crimean Tatars say 
that in the world-ocean there is a great fish, and on the fish 
a bull which carries the earth on its horns. 15 A similar belief 
is found among the Votiaks of the Jelabuga District. 18 The 
world-bull is known also to the Votiaks of the Sarapul Dis- 
trict, who believe that earthquakes are caused by the bull some- 


times starting to move. It is said to be afraid of sunlight, as 
the light rays kill it. 17 The Kirghis relate that the world-bull 
stands on a stone arising out of the dense fog on the cosmic 
ocean. 18 According to the Cheremiss at Ufa, there is a giant 
crab in the ocean on which stands the bull, supporting the earth 
on its horns. Earthquakes are believed to occur when the bull 
shakes its head. The Cheremiss say that on account of the 
weight of the world, one of the bull's horns is broken and that 
when the other breaks, the end of the world will come. 1 " 

It is extremely probable that the idea of this world-support- 
ing bull has reached the Tatars with Islam. In the tales of 
the Jews a bull-shaped Prince of the Depths is also spoken of. 

The primitive peoples of North-East Siberia believe the 
underground mammoth to cause earthquakes and landslides. 
In the winter it is even supposed to break the ice of the rivers. 40 
The local Tatars say that as the earth was not strong enough 
to bear the mammoth, God ordered this animal to bear the 
earth. 21 Possibly the "bull M has here changed into the 
" horned " mammoth. 

For the sake of comparison it may be mentioned how the 
inhabitants of North-East Siberia, where earthquakes are com- 
mon, explain these phenonema. The Kamchadales say that 
the dog of Tuila, on which this spirit rides under the ground, 
makes the earth tremble when it shakes the snow off its back." 
According to this view, therefore, the actual supporter of the 
earth is not the causer of earthquakes. 

In Central Asia the idea of a world-supporting being is gen- 
erally connected with the belief in a cosmic ocean. Those tales, 
which seek to explain in a popular manner the origin of the 
earth, seem also to have been formed out of a similar world 


TROSCANSKIY says that, according to the original con- 
ception of the Yakuts, the earth has always existed, and 
that the question of its creation does not interest them. 1 Stories 
have, however, been gathered among all the Altaic peoples, 
the Yakuts also included, which tell that in the beginning 
there was no earth, only a deep and shoreless primordial ocean. 
This idea of a primordial ocean is common to most Asiatic 
creation myths, although the forming of a flat earth on the 
surface of the great water is described in different ways. 

The most prolific cycle, possessing many variants, is that 
of the tales which relate how some being, diving into the 
water, brings up earth-matter from the depths of the ocean. 

When the great Yryn-Ajy-Tojon ("White Creator 
Lord " ) , so runs a Yakut tale, moved in the beginning above 
the boundless ocean, he saw a bladder floating on the waters 
and inquired: "Who and whence? " The bladder replied 
that it was Satan and lived on the earth hidden under the 
water. God said: "If there really is earth under the water, 
then bring me a piece of it." Satan dived under the water 
and returned after a while with a morsel of earth. Having 
received it, God blessed it, placed it on the surface of the 
water and seated himself on it. Then Satan resolved to drown 
God by stretching out the land, but the more he stretched, 
the stronger it grew, covering soon a great part of the ocean's 
surface. 2 

The sharp dualism appearing in this tale, God and Satan 
as opposites, cannot represent the original beliefs of a primitive 
people. Clues showing which way to turn in tracing the ori- 


gin of this myth are found in the name " Satan " and in the 
following variant noted down among this people : " Satan 
was the elder brother of Christ, but the former was wicked, the 
latter good. When God wished to create the earth he said to 
Satan: * Thou boastest of being able to do everything and sayest 
thou art mightier than I. Good, bring me sand from the 
bottom of the ocean.' Satan dived immediately to the bottom 
of the ocean, but when he arrived again at the surface he saw 
that the water washed the sand out of his hand. Twice the 
devil dived without succeeding, but the third time he changed 
himself into a swallow and managed to bring up a little mud 
in his beak. Christ blessed the morsel of mud, which then 
became the earth, at first flat and smooth as a plate. Intend- 
ing to create for himself a world of his own, Satan deceitfully 
hid a part of the mud in his throat. But Christ understood the 
wile of the devil and struck him on the back of the neck so that 
the mud squirted out of his mouth and formed the mountains 
on the originally smooth surface of the earth." 3 

When comparing these Yakut tales, in which the names 
" Christ " and " Satan " especially attract attention, with the 
apocryphal creation tales of Eastern Europe we see that they 
coincide in every detail. Knowing, besides, that exactly the 
same tales are to be found among the Russians who have 
migrated to Siberia, it seems probable that the Yakuts, who 
according to statistics are Christians, have learned at least the 
above mentioned tales direct from the Russians. Before be- 
ginning to prove the fact in detail, we will examine a few 
more Central Asian tales belonging to the same cycle, which 
contain interesting additions. 

When there was no earth and no Heaven, but only water, 
Olgen (" the Great "), according to an Altai Tatar tale, de- 
scended upon the water to create the earth. He thought and 
thought but could not conceive how to begin. Then " Man " 
came to him. Olgen asked: "Who art thou? " "I also 
came to create land," answered Man. God became angry and 


said: " Even I cannot create, how couldst then thou? " Man 
remarked: " But I know where to get earth-matter from." 
God urged him to get some, whereupon Man dived imme- 
diately into the water, finding at the bottom of the ocean a 
mountain, from which he wrenched a piece and put it in his 
mouth. Arriving again on the surface Man gave God a part 
of it. The other part remained in his mouth between his 
teeth. When at last he spat it out, the swamps and bogs ap- 
peared on the face of the earth.* 

A creation tale in which God and the devil work together is 
met with among the Alarsk Buriats. When Burkhan 
(= Buddha) came down from Heaven to create the earth, 
the devil (Sholmo) appeared beside him to give advice how 
the earth was to be made from the earth-matter and stones 
under the water, offering at the same time to fetch the earth- 
matter. God scattered the earth-matter, which the devil had 
brought him, on the surface of the ocean and said: "Let the 
world be born! " As a reward for his trouble the devil begged 
for a part of the land, receiving enough to plant his staff on. 
The devil at once pushed his staff into this, and from the hole 
there crept forth all manner of reptiles, snakes, etc. Thus 
he created the harmful creatures of the world." 

In all the above tales, even before the creation of the world, 
we meet with two beings of whom one was good, the other 
wicked. This dualistic conception reaches its height in the 
teachings of the Persian Zarathustra, in which Ahura Mazda, 
the god of light and truth, is the promoter of all good and 
happiness, and the devil, Angra Mainyu, of the evil and misery 
which mar the good earth created by, Ahura. Thus far back 
must we trace the dualistic features of our tales. But for com- 
plete coincidence with these we search the sacred books of the 
Mazda religion in vain. 

Later, we meet with the same antagonistic original beings in 
the teachings of the Persian Mani and in the legends of other 
semi-Christian sects which have made their influence felt in 


Northern Syria, Palestine and Caucasia, and in which, besides 
Iranian, old Babylonian fancies and beliefs are also mingled. 

In a Yakut tale, Satan, appearing before God, declares that 
he lives under the water. This idea also seems to be of great 
age among the people of Caucasia and Asia Minor. With 
Zarathustra also the Evil One " arose from the depths." 

According to the creation tales of a later period, in which the 
conception of a primordial ocean has become fixed, the devil 
appears on the surface of the water, sometimes in thick foam, 
as in a Galician tale, sometimes in a floating bubble, as in the 
Yakut. The Voguls explain that this bubble was formed by 
God spitting into the water while coughing. The bubble grew 
and grew until God heard the voice of Satanael inside it. The 
same story is told of the devil in a White Russian creation 

An Altaic story relates in addition how Olgen saw some mud 
with human features floating on the ocean. God gave a spirit 
to it, and to the being thus born he gave the name Erlik. In 
the beginning, Erlik was God's friend and brother, but be- 
came later his enemy. Mostly, the Altai Tatars call the being 
who helps God in creating the world " Man " or " First 
Man," but always, this Man develops into the devil, Erlik. 7 
The reasons for his fall are his most obvious qualities, pride 
and boastfulness. On account of these God drives him down 
into the depths, where he now lives as the ruler of the spirits 
in the kingdom of death. This reflects the old Iranian con- 
ception of the first man, who, by falling into sin, was the first 
to die, and thus became leader of the spirits of the dead. 
In Caucasian tales also, the devil chooses the dead for his 
property, and in a Bulgarian creation story he says to God: 
" The living be thy property, the dead mine." 8 

In the legends of the Bogomil sect, formed in Bulgaria 
about the year 1000, God is said to have had two sons, of 
whom the elder was Satanael, the younger Christ. It is owing 
to this conception, which is met with already among earlier 


sects, that in Yakut tales Satan is called the elder brother of 
Christ. In the corresponding Votiak, as also in many Russian 
tales, God and the devil, Keremet, are brothers. A sect of the 
Iranians, the Zervanists, believed that Ormazd and Ahriman 
were born of the same mother, in whose womb they took shape 
at the same time, but that the latter was brought forth first. 8 

In all the above creation tales the devil appears in human 
shape, only in the Yakut variant he takes on the shape of a 
swallow in order to be able to hold mud in his mouth. In an 
Altaic tale the swallow is also the earth-bringer. 10 Mostly, 
however, the devil, in changing his shape, takes on the form 
of a water-fowl. A water-fowl is actually better adapted both 
for diving and for seeking earth on the bottom of the deep 
ocean. Again, in Eastern Europe the devil helps God both in 
human shape and as a diver-bird, loon, goose, or some other 
water-fowl. He appears in the form of a goose, as does God 
himself, in the following Altaic tale: 

In -the beginning when there was nothing but water, God 
and the " First Man n moved about in the shape of two black 
geese over the waters of the primordial ocean. The devil, 
however, could not hide his nature, but endeavoured ever to 
rise higher, until he finally sank down into the depths. Nearly 
suffocating, he was forced to call to God for help, and God 
raised him again into the air with the power of his word. God 
then spoke: " Let a stone rise from the bottom of the ocean! " 
When the stone appeared, "Man" seated himself upon it, 
but God asked him to dive under the water and bring land. 
Man brought earth in his hand and God scattered it on the 
surface of the water saying: " Let the world take shape! " 
Once more God asked Man to fetch earth. But Man then 
decided to take some for himself and brought a morsel in each 
hand. One handful he gave to God but the other he hid in 
his mouth, intending to create a world of his own. God threw 
the earth which the devil had brought him beside the rest on 
the water,, and the world at once began to expand and grow 


harder, but with the growing of the world the piece of earth 
in Man's mouth also swelled until he was about to suffocate so 
that he was again compelled to seek God's help. God inquired : 
" What was thy intention? Didst thou think thou couldst 
hide earth from me in thy mouth? " Man now told his secret 
intentions and at God's request spat the earth out of his 
mouth. Thus were formed the boggy places upon the earth. 11 

This story, in which God and the devil appear as birds, may 
be compared with a North Russian creation tale, in which God 
and the devil are in co-operation, the former as a white, the 
later as a black pochard." 

Even when appearing in the shape of a water-fowl, the 
devil does not quite lose his human features. Thus, among 
other things, his hands are spoken of. In the creation tales 
of the Voguls also it is often mentioned that the fetcher of 
earth, sometimes the devil, sometimes the son of the first 
people, dresses himself for the occasion in water-fowl's garb. 
When in one tale the devil makes three unsuccessful attempts 
to reach the bottom of the sea in a duck's skin, he winds a 
goose's skin about him and at last succeeds in bringing earth. 1 * 
The Voguls, like the East Europeans, often imagine the earth- 
f etcher to be a real water-fowl, for which the bringing of earth 
in its mouth is much more natural than for a human-like being. 
But mostly, this bird is the antagonist of God, Satanael, who 
endeavours to deceive God by hiding a part of the earth in 
his mouth, where, like the earth of God's creation, it swells 
so terribly that the devil is forced to spit it out, thus forming 
sometimes mountains and hills, sometimes swamps and bogs 
on the smooth surface of the earth. 

When the devil acts altogether in a human -like manner, 
the tales sometimes describe the hiding of the earth in a way 
more suited to men. Thus in a Buriat story the devil hides it 
under his heel and thence scatters it as mountains on the smooth 
earth created by Burkhan. To God's question, why the devil 
wished to spoil his earth, the latter replies: "When man de- 


scends a mountain he is afraid and calls upon Thy name, but 
when he ascends he swears in my name. Thus he is ever 
mindful of us both." 1 * Similar words are uttered by the 
devil in both a Mordvin and a Russian creation tale. 15 

The devil mars the earth in a human-like manner in the 
following Yakut tale: In the beginning, God created a small, 
smooth and even earth, but the devil injured it sadly by kicking 
it with his feet and tearing it. God urged the earth to grow in 
spite of this and so the unevennesses caused by the devil be- 
came great mountains, valleys and lakes. 18 

In the first of the creation tales given, it is said that the 
devil intended to drown God, who had seated himself on the 
little earth-disc just formed upon the surface of the water. 
In a corresponding Bulgarian tale the devil has the same idea. 
He tries to coax God to lie down and sleep upon the earth- 
disc in order to be able to push him into the sea, and to become 
supreme in the world. Although God well knows the inten- 
tions of his enemy, he lays himself down and pretends to sleep. 
The devil then seizes him and begins to carry him to the edge 
of the earth in order to pitch him into the depths. But 
when he approaches the shore the earth begins to expand so 
that he is unable to reach its edge. He turns towards the other 
side but even there he can no longer see the ocean. The third 
and the fourth direction give the same result." 

Tbis same story, has been added to an entirely different 
creation tale in Central Asia. Here the earth is also brought 
from under the water and placed on the surface of the ocean, 
but the devil takes no part in the creation. The creator is 
Otshirvani (= the Buddhist Bodhisattva Vairapani) and his 
assistant Chagan-Shukuty. When these mighty beings de- 
scended from heaven they saw a frog (= turtle) diving in 
the water. Otshirvani's companion raised it from the depths 
and placed it on its back on the water. " I shall sit on the 
stomach of the frog," said Otshirvani, "dive thou to the 
bottom and bring up what thy hand finds." Chagan-Shukuty 


dived twice, and the second time he succeeded in bringing up 
some earth. Then Otshirvani told him to sprinkle it on the 
stomach of the frog (turtle), on which they sat. The frog 
itself sank out of sight and only, the earth remained visible 
above the surface of the water. Resting there, the gods fell 
asleep and while they were sleeping, Shulmus, the devil, ar- 
rived and saw the two friends lying on the earth which they 
had just created and which was yet so small that there Was 
scarcely room for a third on it. The devil decided to make use 
of his chance and drown these beings together with their earth. 
But when he attempted to seize hold of the edge of the earth, 
he no longer saw the ocean. He took the sleeping friends under 
his arm and began to run towards the shore with them. But 
while he ran the earth grew. When he saw that his attempt 
was vain he dropped his burden and barely succeeded in escap- 
ing when Otshirvani awoke. The latter then explained to his 
companion- how the devil had meant to destroy them but how 
the earth had saved them. 18 

But although the devil did not succeed in destroying God, 
he was able to mar the earth, as we have seen, and, according 
to the Buriats, to create many useless and harmful animals on 
it. This last tale has also been recorded in other parts of 
Siberia, e.g., among the Voguls. Here the devil makes a 
hole in the earth with his staff, from which frogs, lizards, 
worms, beetles, gnats, wasps, mice, etc., arise, until God closes 
the hole with a fiery stopper. The same description is found 
even in East European creation tales. 1 * 

There would thus seem to be no doubt that these Asiatic 
stories of the origin of the earth, which correspond in all their 
details to the East European creation tales, are closely con- 
nected with a common cycle of tales, rich in variants. Outside 
the boundaries of the former Russian Empire, with the excep- 
tion of certain Balkan States and the Gypsies who have been 
influenced by the Slavs of Austria, we do not meet in the west 
with this myth, which is unknown on Roman Catholic territory. 


In the Greek Catholic Church, on the contrary, and especially 
among certain sects, it has been greatly favoured. This fact 
can also be proved in Finland, which has been a meeting- 
point for the currents of both Western and Eastern culture. 
Tales have been recorded only in Eastern Finland, in which 
the devil, sometimes with the aid of a diver-bird, fetches earth 
from the bottom of the sea, hides a part of it in his mouth, 
and adds the stones, rocks and mountains to the surface of the 
earth by, being compelled to spit it out when it swells between 
his jaws. In one variant, where God sat in the beginning on 
a golden pillar in the middle of the sea, the devil is said to 
have appeared in the world when God told his reflection, which 
he saw in the water, to arise. 20 Bulgarian legends also relate 
that the devil was born of God's shadow. 21 

Veselovskiy, who has made comparative researches on a large 
scale into the legends of the last-named church, is of the 
opinion that this tale is a creation of the Bogomil sect in Bul- 
garia. We do not, however, meet with the story of the 
fetching of the earth in either the Bogomil literature or in the 
teachings of those Armenian Gnostics from whom the Bogomils 
inherited their dualistic conception. This tale of the origin 
of the earth appears first in a Russian manuscript of the 
fifteenth century, but seems already at that time to have been 
very widespread. Schief ner, who is acquainted with the stories 
of the Russian sectaries, assumes that our dualistic tale has 
wandered into Northern and Central Asia with Russian fugi- 
tives and settlers from Europe. 22 Sumcov doubts, however, 
whether the Russian newcomers could have implanted their 
tale so deeply into the beliefs of the Central Asian peoples in 
such a comparatively short time. He assumes, therefore, 
Nestorian influence, this sect having won much territory in 
Central Asia before Islam. 23 To Persian influence points the 
fact that God in one Altaic creation tale calls himself " the 
true Kurbystan " (= Ahura Mazda). " But in districts where 
Buddhism is common, names derived from this religion, such 




as Burkhan, etc., are also met with, although the appearance 
of the devil here hints at Iranian influence. Might it therefore 
be assumed, as Dahnhardt also supposes, that the dualistic tale 
of the bringing-up of earth has its origin somewhere in the 
vicinity of the Iranians, e.g., among the Syrian Gnostics, whence 
it has wandered both to Russia and Bulgaria and through 
Persia to Central Asia? As no proof for this assumption can 
be found in the literary sources on the subject, we should have 
to add a further supposition, i.e., that in addition to the written 
teachings, verbal stories corresponding with our tale have also 
been handed down. However this may be, it is at least cer- 
tain, as we have shown, that many features in this tale have 
their origin in the Near East. It is also probable that this 
cycle of tales is no single creation, but a collection of ideas 
and stories of different content and gathered from various 

Especially interesting is the bird which fetches the earth 
from the bottom of the primordial ocean. Whence has this 
peculiar feature come into our tales and how shall we account 
for it? 

In some Russian legends and also in North -West Siberian 
tales the fetching of the piece of earth is spoken of in con-, 
nection with the story of the flood. The Samoyeds in the 
District of Turukhansk relate the following: Seven people had 
been saved in a boat and, when they saw that the water rose 
and rose and that there was no help, they begged the diver- 
bird to fly into the water and seek land there. After seven 
days the diver-bird returned bringing a grassy piece of turf 
in its beak, and of this they asked God to create for them an 
earth. 25 Also in a Russian variant God sends the devil to bring 
sand from the water when he wishes to make a new earth after 
the flood. 28 

In the flood story of the Samoyeds, the diver-bird reminds 
one of the bird sent by Noah from his ark, which brought him 
news of the appearance of land in its beak, but from this we 


cannot yet be certain that Noah's bird has been the original 
of the water-fowl appearing in our tales. For quite simple 
reasons, two myths, both treating of great floods and of a bird, 
may have become confounded. 

In a Vogul creation tale, which mentions several birds, these 
have work of two kinds to perform The red- and the black- 
throated diver fetch earth, but the raven is sent out to see how 
large the earth has grown. On the first day the bird is away 
but a short time, on the second it returns toward midday, on 
the third not until the evening. Every day its journey takes a 
longer time and from this it may be guessed how the earth 
grows from day to day. 27 The raven in this tale has thus in 
some degree the same duty as the dove in the flood story of 
the Bible, but this feature can hardly be traced back to the 

It is to be noted, in addition, that stories of the creation and 
of the flood are often met with separately among the same 

Besides the preceding versions, in which God and the earth- 
bringer are antagonists, a creation tale without this dualistic 
idea is met with in Asia, In this the Creator uses quite simply 
an ordinary water-fowl in order to bring up earth from the 

The Yenisei Ostiaks related to me that in the beginning the 
water flowed everywhere. The Great Shaman Doh hovered 
over the waters in the company of swans, looms, and other 
water-fowl. As he could nowhere find a resting-place he 
asked the diver-bird to bring him a piece of earth from under 
the sea. The diver tried twice before it succeeded in bring- 
ing up some earth in its beak. Of this Doh made an island 
in the sea. 28 

According to Buriat tales, at the bottom of the shoreless 
primordial ocean, there were black earth and red clay. When 
Burkhan decided to create an earth he asked the white diver 
to fetch him earth-matter from under the water. The diver 


brought both earth and clay in his beak and sprinkled them on 
the water. Thus was created a world floating on the waves, 
on which trees and grass soon began to grow." 

The Buriats of the District of Balagan have the same story 
in the following form. In the beginning when there was yet 
no land, Sombol-Burkhan moved over the waters, where he 
saw a water-fowl swimming with its twelve young. God then 
said: "Water-bird, dive down and bring me earth — black 
soil in thy beak and on thy feet red clay! " Having thus ob- 
tained earth-matter, God scattered the red clay on the water, 
and upon it the black soil. Thus was made the earth which 
soon became covered with beautiful vegetation. Thankful, 
God blessed the water-bird saying : " Thou shalt have many 
young and shalt ever swim and dive in the water." That is 
how this bird has such a wonderful ability to dive deep and 
remain long under the water. 80 

In these tales we find no being akin to the devil appearing as 
God's opponent. We cannot, however, conclude from this, 
as Dahnhardt, who knows only the first mentioned Buriat tale, 
does, that this form of creation tale is only a deformed variant 
of the dualistic stories. Hardly, again, has the devil any part 
in the following story, which was recorded among the North- 
ern Yakuts, although the " Mother of God " is mentioned in 
it: The Mother of God decided to create a world, but having 
no material she first created a diver-bird and a duck, both of 
which she commanded to dive under the ocean and fetch 
earth. The first to appear was the duck who brought some 
mud in her mouth. Then the diver came up, but without 
mud, explaining that it was impossible to find earth in the 
water. The Mother of God became angry and said: "Thou 
deceitful bird, have I not given thee more strength and a 
longer beak than the duck? But thou deceives! me and pitiest 
the ocean. For this thou shalt never live on the sacred sur- 
face of the earth, but shalt ever dive in the waters and seek 
all manner of refuse there for thy nourishment." Then the 


Mother of God created the earth from the mud the diver had 
brought, and placed it upon the surface of the ocean. The 
earth did not sink under the water, nor could the waves move 
it or wash it asunder, but it remained fixed in a certain place 
like a floating island and grew gradually into a great world. 81 

In the tales of the Voguls also, we sometimes find two 
water-birds, the black- and the red-throated diver, acting as 

A Buriat variant tells in addition how the water-fowl, which 
Sombol-Burkhan sent to fetch earth, met the " crab " in the 
depths. The latter inquired of the bird where it was going. 
The bird answered that it was diving for earth from the bot- 
tom of the sea. Then the " crab " became angry and re- 
marked : " I am always in the water and have never yet seen 
its bottom, turn back quickly or I shall cut thee in two with my 
scissors! " The bird was forced to return to the surface. See- 
ing it, Sombol-Burkhan inquired why the bird had not brought 
him earth. On hearing how the crab had threatened it, he 
gave the bird magic words, by the help of which it at last 
succeeded in reaching the bottom. 82 

This interlude in the diving is mentioned also in the tales 
of the Votiaks of the District of Sarapul. God's assistant 
meets a crab in the water, who inquires where he is going and 
tells him that he, the crab, though a sea-dweller for one 
hundred and twenty years, has never yet met with land in 
the ocean. The story continues with the fetching of earth, and 
how an evil being hides sand in its mouth and then creates the 

mountains. 89 

Comparing these latter tales, we can scarcely remain in 
doubt as to which of them represents a more original stage. 
The crab as frightener in the dualistic story of the Votiaks is 
as unnatural and unnecessary as it is natural in the Buriat tale. 
This additional feature, which to the author's knowledge has 
not been met with further west, may have been added later 
to the dualistic creation story from a simpler and more primi- 


tive creation tale, which has perhaps been known also among 
the Votiaks. 

If We assume, therefore, that the tales in which a natural 
water-fowl and not the Satanael of the Bogomils acts as earth- 
f etcher, are more primitive, we can easily, explain the bird-like 
features of the devil, often appearing even in stories where 
the devil dives into the water in human shape. In this way, the 
problem of the fetching of earth, which can be explained in 
no other way, would be solved: an old primitive tale has later 
become embellished with the dualistic ideas of the sectarians 
of the Eastern Church. 

All depends thus on whether we can take for granted that 
those Asiatic tales in which the devil is unknown, represent 
an earlier stage. 

A proof of the fact, that the creation tales in this simpler 
form are both popular and original, Js given by the innumera- 
ble stories of similar content gathered among the Indian tribes 
of North America. In these it is sometimes a water-fowl, 
sometimes a fish or some amphibian that brings up mud from 
the bottom of the primordial ocean, which mud is then placed 
on the surface of the water and soon grows into a big world for 
people to live in." 

Sometimes this earth-fetching tale is intertwined with the 
flood story even in America, where it is usually a musk-rat 
that saves the people floating on the ocean in a boat, on a raft, 
or on a tree-trunk, by bringing them mud from the bottom of 
the sea, from which mud a new earth then grows. Like the 
raven in the Vogul tale given earlier, so in the similar North 
American stories some animal, a fox or a wolf, is used for the 
purpose of reporting on the growth of the earth. When 
Nanabozhu, according to the Winnebago Indians, could no 
longer follow the growth of the land with his eyes, he sent a 
wolf to run round the earth in order to know its size. The 
first time the wolf soon returned, the second journey took him 
two years, the third time he returned no more. 88 


Noticeable, further, is the part played by the turtle in the 
tales of the North American Indians. There is a story among 
the Sioux Indians of how the turtle and some water-bird swam 
about in the primordial ocean with earth-matter in their 
mouths, the one with mud, the other with grass. The grassy 
earth formed by these was placed on the back of the turtle. 
The Hurons also say, that in the beginning there was nothing 
but water, until from the depths a turtle appeared and sent, 
one after the other, the otter, the musk-rat, the diver, and 
other water-dwellers to fetch earth-matter. But only in the 
mouth of the frog, the last to be sent, could the turtle find 
mud. This was then sprinkled round the edges of the turtle's 
shell, and before long formed the earth. When the earth 
grew, the turtle remained as its supporter, a duty it carries 
out even today. 38 

The part of the turtle in creating the world is especially 
interesting on account of the corresponding idea in the Central 
Asian stories. 

In the beginning of time, so say the Buriats, there was noth- 
ing but water, and a great turtle who looked into the water. 
God turned this animal on its back and built the world on its 
stomach. In another connection we have already mentioned 
how, according to an Altaic story, the heavenly Otshirvani and 
Chagan-Shukuty notice a turtle diving in the waters, and how 
the latter dives down for earth while the former sits upon the 
animal's stomach, and how Otshirvani then sprinkled the earth 
on the frog." 7 In Central Asian tales we find in addition 
Mandishire (=the Buddhist Bodhisattva Manjucri) as 
creator of the earth, who changes himself into a large turtle 
and supports the earth he has made on the surface of the 

water. 38 

In these Central Asian tales we find an ancient Indian story 
in a form coloured by Buddhism. As is known, the Creator 
appears already in the ancient Indian tales in the shape of a 
turtle. In this form he fetches mud from the bottom of the 


primordial ocean and makes of it a rapidly expanding earth, 
which he supports on the surface of the vast surrounding 
ocean. In later Buddhist tales a Bodhisattva, mostly Manjucri, 
takes the place of the old and more primitive deity. 

In Indian tales the earth-fetcher sometimes takes the shape 
of some other animal. As the supporter of the earth, as we 
have seen, a fish is also mentioned. 

Our comparative research has thus at last brought us to 
India. This is actually the only country in Asia where the 
bringing of the earth from the bottom of the ocean is con- 
nected already with the beliefs of an unknown, far-distant 
past. The literatures of other ancient cultured Asiatic peoples 
do not possess a similar tale. It is also impossible to assume 
that the idea of a primordial ocean could have been born 
among the Central Asian prairie-dwellers. Although it is 
true that we can find among the information relating to India, 
no mention of a water-fowl as the bringer of earth, we are 
forced in the end to believe that this feature of our tales has 
its roots also in that land of countless stories. 

Besides the above tales about the origin of the earth, in 
which the fetching of earth-matter from under the water is a 
common feature, stories have been recorded among the peoples 
of the Altaic race, which explain the appearance of the earth 
on the surface of the ocean in a different manner. 

The following Mongolian story is probably a product of 
Lamaism: In the beginning, when there was yet no earth, but 
water covered everything, a Lama came down from Heaven, 
and began to stir the water with an iron rod. By the influence 
of the wind and fire thus brought about, the water on the 
surface in the middle of the ocean thickened and coagulated 
into land. 38 Certain syncretists of Nearer Asia also describe 
how the earth was formed when God caused the cosmic foam 
on the surface of the ocean to coagulate.* Closely correspond- 
ing to the Mongolian story is a Japanese tale: In the beginning 
one of the seven gods of Heaven stirred the chaotic waters 



with his staff. When he raised his staff, muddy foam dripped 
from it and, expanding and thickening, formed the islands of 

More than a hundred years ago a tale was written down 
among the Tungus beyond the Baikal, describing how God 
sent fire into the primordial ocean. In the course of time the 
fire vanquished the power of the water and burnt up a part of 
the ocean, so that it became quite hard. Thus the present land 
and sea were formed. With this tale is connected a dualistic 
conception of two antagonistic primitive beings. When God 
stepped down upon the earth he met the devil, Buninka, who 
also desired to create a world. Thus a dispute arose between 
God and the devil. The devil wished to destroy God's earth 
and broke the latter's twelve-stringed musical instrument. 
Then God was angry and said: "If thou canst command a 
pine-tree to grow out of the lake I will recognize thy power, 
but if I can do it, thou must admit that I am omnipotent." 
The devil agreed to God's proposal. At once, when God com- 
manded, a tree arose from the water and began to grow, but 
the devil's pine would not stand erect but tottered from one 
side to the other. Thus the devil saw that God was mightier 
than he." 

In this story, which concludes with the creation of man, 
God and the devil as rivals, the stringed instrument, etc., are 
features which can by ho means be reconciled with the original 
circumstances and beliefs of the Tungus. A feature corre- 
sponding to the tree-growing competition may be found in the 
Central Asian creation tale in which Otshirvam and his com- 
panion, Chagan-Shukuty, pour water into a vessel and wait 
to see on whose side a plant shall appear. Similarly in the 
Buriat tale, three Burkhans try which of them is to procure a 
spirit for the people whom they had created. 

The Tungus believe that fire played a great part in the 
creation of the world. This conception appears already among 
the syncretistic Mandaean sect, the influence of which was felt 


in Mesopotamia in the first centuries of our era. Their tale 
had possibly been accepted by the Manicheans. It tells how 
fire is slung into the water and how, with the ensuing steam, 
dust rises into the air and in sinking again to the surface of the 
water forms into solid land. 48 

The presence of oriental learning is to be discerned also 
in a conception met with in Central Asia of a primi- 
tive chaos consisting of fire, water and wind. Burkhan- 
bakshi (= Buddha-master j bakshi = Mandshu fakshi, 
" master," Chinese fashi t " teacher ") separated them and 
scattered the dust thus formed on the surface of the water, 
where it gradually grew into an earth covered with grass and 

trees. 44 

In some Mongolian districts we meet also with an idea, 
common in China and Japan, that heaven and earth were 
joined together in the beginning, but later separated. At the 
parting of earth and sky fire appeared, or, according to some 
variants, the constellations in the sky. 45 This belief evidently 
originates in the Indian tale, which has spread especially to the 
eastward of India, of a world-egg, from whose halves earth 
and heaven have been formed. 

Some of the most northern peoples of Siberia believe 
further that the earth came down from Heaven. Stories re- 
ferring to this have been recorded both in the west, in the 
Vogul districts, and in the far east, among the Kamchadales. 
The Voguls tell that Numi-Torem let down an earth-disc 
from heaven as a dwelling-place for the people he had made. 48 
The Kamchadales say that the god of Heaven, Kutku, brought 
the earth down from the sky and placed it on the surface of the 
ocean. The latter also relate how the wife of the god of 
Heaven bore a son while moving on the ocean, and that Kutku 
created an earth out of his body. 47 

The idea that the earth has come down from Heaven is 
closely connected with those tales in which sometimes fire, 
sometimes some animal, object, etc., is dropped or let down 


from the upper spheres. We may therefore assume that the 
letting down of the earth from Heaven is of the same origin. 
It is, however, to be noted that these tales take for granted 
the existence of a primordial ocean. 

Just as the idea of a vast ocean surrounding the earth is 
natural to coast-dwellers, and the conception of the growing 
of the earth, i.e., the shore, is founded on the actual experi- 
ence of years, so these same ideas seem unnatural and unex- 
pected in the central parts of a great continent. How entirely 
different the conceptions of the nomads of the Altaic race have 
been, is to be seen from a story of the Kirghis, in which it is 
declared that in the beginning there was no water at all. Two 
people tended a great ox, but having long been without drink 
they were dying of thirst. The ox then determined to get 
them water by digging into the earth with his great horns. 
Thus were formed the lakes and the rivers on the surface of 
the earth. 48 

We cannot, then, consider any of the above mentioned crea- 
tion tales to be the invention of the Altaic race. Without 
doubt the idea of the Yakuts: " The world has always been," 
probably represents the original belief of the whole Altaic 
race. By this we do not mean to say that the peoples of this 
race have not also had their own local myths, which try to 
explain the causes of certain changes on the surface of the 
earth. An example of this is the Kirghis tale already men- 
tioned. The most northern peoples of Siberia, such as the 
Tungus, Samoyeds, Ostiaks, etc., who often find, in the neigh- 
bourhood of their homes, bones and teeth of the mammoth 
in the ground, say that this beast made the originally smooth 
earth uneven with his horns. The mountains and chasms at 
least are said to have been thus formed. The valleys and de- 
pressions were caused by the quaking of the earth under the 
weight of this former giant animal when it walked. The 
water, gathering Intoihese depressions, afterwards formed the 
lakes and rivers. God is said to have at last become angry 



and to have drowned the mammoth in a lake where it still lives 
under the ground.** 

Local also is another North-East Siberian tale of the origin 
of mountains and valleys. God lived in Heaven originally, 
but settled later upon the earth. When he then travelled, 
moving on skis, the thin earth bent under him like new, pliant 
ice. That is the reason why the surface of the earth is 


THE REGULAR diurnal movement of the stars round 
an axis at the North Star, the reasons for which never- 
ending rotation were earlier unknown, gave birth to an idea 
that this apparent centre of the universe was formed by some 
object which could be represented in concrete form, and which 
was, in addition, believed to support the roof of the sky. This 
belief we have seen to be held by the Lapps, etc., and relics of 
a similar belief are to be found among most of the peoples of 
the Northern Hemisphere. 

From this belief spring the curious names given by the Altaic 
stocks to the North Star. The Mongols, Buriats, Kalmucks, 
and the Altai Tatars and Uigurs call the star in question " The 
golden pillar "j the Kirghis, Bashkirs and certain other Siberian 
Tatar tribes call it " The iron pillar "; the Teleuts " The 
lone post," and the Tungus-Orotshons "The golden post." 
From the similarity of the names given it by these widely 
separated peoples we may conclude that the conception of a 
sky-supporting pillar reaches back among the Altaic race to a 
comparatively early period. 1 In a tale of the Yakuts in which 
the world is regarded as having gradually developed from a 
small beginning, this " iron tree " boasts: " When the heavens 
and the earth commenced to grow, I grew with them." * 

Although none of the available sources mention directly 
that the peoples of the Altaic race made images of this great 
world-pillar, we can still be reasonably certain that they did 
so from the fact that several of the more northern peoples 
have kept up this custom even to our days. These peoples 
were under Turco-Tatar influence, and even offered up blood- 



sacrifices to these pillars. The Ostiaks call these wooden 
images of the pillar, " town-pillars " or " the strong pillars of 
the town's centre." Those more simple in construction are 
erected by being slightly sunk into the earth, and are hardly 
ever observed to be shaped at all in any way. The pillar of 
the village of Tsingala is about two fathoms in height, a 
squared, slender log, not very old. Nowadays these pillars, 
as the objects of reverential ceremonies, are here met with 
only in a few of the coast villages of Irtysh, those of the other 
villages having been swept along with landslides into the river. 
The " town pillar " of the village of Tsingala, although it 
stands among the buildings on a site incapable of awakening 
respect, is worshipped with offerings like a god. Karjalainen 
relates that " the inhabitants of this and other villages of the 
same district, gathered together for the paying of taxes, buy 
mutually a cow or a bull and sacrifice it at the foot of the 
pillar in order to obtain prosperity in their work and additions 
to their families." This pillar of Tsingala, which the Ostiaks 
of that place regard as a deity, is called by them " The iron 

Fig. 13. Dolcan Shaman-pillars with Figures of Birds 

pillar man," a similar name being given to the post of another 
village of Irtysh, resembling greatly the afore-mentioned 
" Iron pillar " of the Tatars. It is therefore obvious that 



" the strong pillar of the town's centre " of the Ostiaks, which 
a certain tale describes as " the tree planted by God," cannot 
be, as Karjalainen assumes, intended merely for the tying of 
sacrificial animals and the hanging-up of offerings, but is a 
representation of the pillar supporting the sky. 3 This appears 
also from the prayers read at the post. 

Some peoples in North-West Siberia, who have a similar 
custom, place on the world-pillar a wooden figure of a bird, 
which sometimes has two heads. What this bird, which is 
spoken of by the Dolgans as the " lord of the birds," and which 
hangs on the breast of the Yenisei Ostiak shaman-dress, is 

Fig. 14. T^vo-headed Birds of Iron which hanc on the 
Dress and Drum of the Yenisei-Ostiak Shaman 

intended to represent, the people themselves do not know; but 
it is probable that this bird has flown here from the mythology 
of the ancient peoples. The pillars, on which these birds are 
placed and which have sometimes cross-pieces like branches, 
are, according to the Dolgans, a symbol of the " never falling 
props" before the dwelling of the Supreme God. On the 
cross-pieces, so it is said, dwell the sons of God. 4 

It would be interesting to know what the sky, which this 
wonderful pillar was supposed to support, was originally be- 
lieved to be. We can hardly be mistaken if we suppose it to 
have been pictured as some kind of a roof, the purpose of 


which was to protect the earth and life on the earth. To this 
points also the view still prevalent in some places, viz., that 
the sky is a kind of great tent-roof stretched over the earth. 
The Yakuts say that the sky consists of several overlapping 
tightly stretched skins. The Buriats see in the Milky Way " a 
stitched seam," and a certain being says with pride: " Long, 
long ago, when I was young, I sewed the sky together." * 
Sometimes the gods open slightly the sky-cover to see what is 
happening on the earth. In this way the Chuvash, among 
others, explain the flight of meteors. Lucky the one who sees 
this " crack in the sky," as he obtains what he at that moment 
wishes or begs of God. 8 Similarly, the Ostiaks believe that 
God grants everything desired of him while " the door of 
Heaven " is open.' The same phenonemon is also meant by 
the Buriats when they speak of the " door of Heaven," which 
the gods sometimes open for an instant. When this " door " 
is* open, which lasts only for a second, " a wonderful light 
shines from the sky, which makes the whole world glow in a 
strange fashion." 8 This childish idea of the light-phenome- 
non which follows the flight of a meteor through the belt of 
air, has earlier been very general both in Asia and Europe. 
Quite as general has been the habit of expressing at such times 
some wish, which it is believed will be fulfilled. 

The sky having thus been regarded as a kind of tent-roof, 
which, stretched from a great post or pillar, covered the earth, 
it is comprehensible that the stars should then have been only 
a kind of hole in this cover. The worst hole was the Pleiades, 
from which winds and cold were believed to stream over the 

This conception of the sky as a kind of roof, is, without 
doubt, of extreme age and the product of an extremely early 
culture. Obviously, the primitive dwelling-house of man him- 
self gave direction to his imagination, when he attempted to 
create for himself a picture of the surrounding world. In 
some of the descriptions in the Old Testament the sky appears 


tent-like, e.g., in the 40th chapter of Isaiah, in which God is 
described as: " He who stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain 
and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in." 

Besides the above conception, in which the world-pillar ap- 
pears as the supporter of the sky, another is met with, accord- 
ing to which it is the tethering-post of the stars wandering in 
the sky. The fact that, seen from the earth, the stars seem 
to be eternally revolving round the sky-post, awakened the 
idea of bonds attaching these to one another. As the peoples 
related to the Turks sometimes imagined the stars to be a 
great drove of horses, we can understand why, in the tales of 
these people, the world-pillar is often called a mighty tether- 
ing-post for horses. As such the Yakuts call it " the horse- 
post ruler.'* 1 * The Buriats have tales of the nine sons of a 
spirit named Boshintoi, living in the sky; these sons, as skilful 
blacksmiths, taught men to prepare iron, and are therefore 
worshipped and praised in the following words: " The nine 
white smiths of Boshintoi . . . made of the North Star a horse- 
post and of the golden lake a race course." 11 In the same 
way as the Nomads of Central Asia have a post for the tether- 
ing of their steeds before their buildings, the gods are said 
to fasten theirs to the heaven-post. Certain Siberian Tatar 
tribes believe the gods to live in a tent in the sky, in front of 
which is a " golden horse-post." 12 As Karjalainen remarks, 
the Ostiaks of Vasyugan, in their tales, have also adopted 
from the Tatars " the Iron post, the Stone post, on the side of 
the sun, created by Torem (the god of Heaven), in which there 
is an iron ring large enough to admit a sleeved arm," and to 
which the driving-reindeer is bound. Similarly, the Voguls 
speak of " The holy iron pillar of God erected for the tether- 
ing of the holy animal with many-coloured thighs," erected 
before the dwelling of the god of Heaven. 18 

In the folk-lore of the Ostiaks, as seen from the above, 
a " stone " pillar is also mentioned. A strange, rectangular, 
transparent pillar of stone, three fathoms in height, appears 


jn the centre of an area of iron in the tales of the Yakuts. 1 * 
Probably such world-pillars are hidden also among 
the stone pillars on the prairies of Central Asia. At any 
rate, traces have been found of high four-sided monu- 
ments which were erected upon the back of the world-bearing 

But especially interesting is the fact that many of these holy 
pillars of the Ugrians were imagined to be seven-storeyed. 
This was also true of the pillar at Tsingala, as although the 
object itself had no signs pointing to the fact, the words in the 
prayer, in which the god of Heaven is closely connected with 
the pillar god, run as follows: " My seven-divided high man- 
father thou art, a six-divided high man thou art. My iron 
pillar man-father, to the foot of the holy tree, my metal 
pillar man-father, to the foot of the holy tree, to partake of a 
generous dish of head-meat, to partake of a generous dish of 
breast-meat, we called thee." The word " six-divided " 
or " six-marked " is here only a poetic reiteration. Another 
prayer noted down in which a Heaven god called Sanke is 
addressed in addition to the post runs: " Seven-divisioned high 
man, Sanke, my father, my in-three-directions-watching man- 
father, my in-three-directions-protecting man-father. To the 
holy, ground of my iron pillar man-father, to the innocent 
ground, at the foot of the holy tree erected by him, I stand my 
blood-animal blood-sacrifice." 1B 

The significance of the number seven in the beliefs connected 
with the pillars of the Ugrians is especially apparent. The 
Ostiak tales relate how a person setting out on a courtship has 
to sacrifice at the foot of this " God-faced holy tree," or " to 
hold up there the sacrifice of seven reindeer-bulls tied to one 
rope," and to make " seven good bows of the head at the foot 
of the god-faced holy tree." The seven animals are mentioned 
also in certain advice given to a hero setting out on a danger- 
ous journey: "Call together the village full of thy many 
men, the town full of thy many menj bring the seven animals 


bound to one rope and tie them to the strong town-pillar." x * 
In the Yakut tales the seven reindeer at the " iron tree " 
are also mentioned." Most probably these " seven ani- 
mals " bound to one rope, like the pillar itself, have their 
counterpart in the sky, and in this connection our thoughts 
turn to the Great Bear, the " seven animals " of which are 
imagined as being bound to the North Star "by one 

But the number seven appears also in the names of the god 
— " the seven-divisioned or seven-marked man," which points 
possibly to the fact that the pillar itself was imagined to be 
seven-storeyed. And examples for this are not lacking. Thus, 
in sacrificing to a spirit called " the Roach lake old man " at 
the sources of the Salym, the Ostiaks of that district erect on 
the lake a pillar of fir-wood about a fathom in height, on 
which they cut with a knife " seven marks at seven places." 
To the head of the post they fix coloured cloths and place the 
sacrificial runes before it, the sacrificial animal being also bound 
to it for the duration of the prayers and genuflexions. In 
slaughtering, a stream of blood has to be directed on to the 
post. 18 Similar pillars were erected in earlier times by the 
Yenisei Ostiaks on the banks of their rivers to give luck in 
fishing. Nowadays, to our knowledge, none are met with in 
practice, although the older people still speak about them. In 
the museum at Krasnoyarsk several are preserved, these being 
thin posts about two fathoms in height, on which seven deep 
cuts have been made one above the other. In the place of 
these cuts, it was the custom in some districts to leave the 
stumps of seven branches. In the same way it is related of the 
Irtysh Ostiaks that when sacrificing at a hole in the ice they 
erected a post beside it on which seven branches had been left. 18 
Karjalainen assumes this to have been only an artificial sacri- 
fice tree, but even these temporarily erected posts can probably 
not be separated from the world-pillars. In any case, the 
seven-divisioned " iron pillar man " has a heavenly counter- 


part, as the Vogul tales tell of a " seven-divided pure silver 
holy pillar " to which the son of God ties his steed when 
visiting his father. 20 

On studying the Asian cosmography we find no difficulty in 
explaining what these seven divisions or stumps of branches 
signify. Without doubt, they represent the seven storeys of 
the sky, an idea general also among the Ostiaks. The " divi- 
sions M appear also in the shaman rites of the Altai Tatars, 
although here the storeys of Heaven are regarded as being 
nine in number. When about to shamanize, a special tent is 
erected on the Altai, in the centre of which a birch is erected 
so that the crown of the tree sticks out of the air-hole in the 
middle of the roof. Nine divisions are cut into the trunk of 
the birch, and are described as being the symbols of the nine- 
storied heavens. Rising by means of the tree into the highest 
Heaven the shaman has to travel through all the different 
storeys. This is done in such a manner that while exercising 
his magic the shaman climbs division by division upwards. 
When he places his foot on the lowest notch he has reached 
the first Heaven, and so on until he rises into the ninth. 21 

The tree, along which the Altai shaman rises into Heaven, 
though furnished with divisions, is not really a post, but a leaf- 
crowned birch-tree. Thus, we find here an intermediate stage 
between the above mentioned world-pillars and the branched 
world-tree supposed to rise from the centre of the earth. As 
the holy pillars of the Ostiaks had either seven divisions or 
seven branches, so an Abakan Tatar hero-poem tells of " the 
white, seven-branched birch-tree on an iron mountain in the 
centre of the earth." 22 But before describing in detail this 
mighty tree reigning over the earth's centre, we must first 
turn our attention to the mountain in thjs same region, from the 
summit of which, according to many tales, the tree arises. 


THE MAJORITY of the peoples of Central Asia have 
tales of a mighty world-mountain, which the Mongols 
and Kalmucks call Sumur or Sumer, and the Buriats Sumbur. 
In whatever form this mountain is imagined, it is connected 
always with the cosmography of these peoples, forming its 
centre. Assuming that the world was formerly small and has 
gradually grown to its present size;, the folk-tales tell of a 
distant time, when Sumur was only a very little hill. 1 Now 
its summit aspires to heights unattainable by man, offering 
thus to the gods a dwelling-place worthy of them. 

Although the Altai peoples have worshipped their moun- 
tains, especially the Altai, adored in many tales, which they 
called the " prince," 2 the conception of a central mountain of 
the earth-disc was not bound to any of the Central Asian 
mountains, but came from abroad, ready-shaped to a particular 
cosmography. It is worthy of note that this mythical mountain 
is often placed in Heaven itself. Thus, the Over-god Bai- 
Ylgon (" rich -great ") lives in Heaven " on a golden moun- 
tain." s Similarly, the tales of the Yakuts tell of the " milky- 
white stone mountain " of Heaven. 4 Often this mountain is 
described as rising in storeys, the number of which varies, but 
is generally the same as the number of storeys into which 
Heaven is divided among that particular people. A certain 
Central Asian tale describes the central mountain of the earth- 
disc as " three-stepped." * The Ostiaks speak of the " seven- 
storied mountain " of Heaven.* Even Heaven itself is some- 
times imagined as a mountain of this description j its underside, 
which we mortals see, is like a rounded arch. An Altaic crea- 


tion tale relates how Olgen when creating the earth, sat on a 
" golden mountain " where the sun and the moon always shine, 
and how this mountain later descended, hiding the earth ; the 
edges of the sky did not, however, reach to the earth itself. 7 

The idea of a heavenly mountain appears also in the follow- 
ing tale of the Goldes living in North- East Siberia: "When 
the gods built Heaven, they made it of stone, but when it was 
ready, the people below began to be afraid that it would fall 
down on them, wherefore the gods blew under the arch so 
that the air thus formed hid the arch from the sight of men." * 
Without doubt, this picture of Heaven is closely connected with 
" the mountain " and has developed from it. This idea of 
the stone arch cannot have arisen among the Goldes, as this 
structure is quite unknown to them, as it is to all other North 
Siberian tribes. 

In the tales of the Mongols, Buriats, and Kalmucks the 
world-mountain — Sumbur, Sumur, or Sumer - — has a name in 
which the central mountain of the inhabitants of India, Sumeru, 
is easily recognized, and the beliefs connected with the same 
have spread ready-formed along with a stream of civilization 
from India to the peoples of Central Asia. Whether this 
mountain Sumeru or Meru originated in India, in connection 
with some actual mountain there, is difficult to say. As far 
back as can be traced it has been a cosmologic belief. 

Where then, is the summit of this earth-mountain? We 
might suppose it to be at the summit of Heaven, directly above 
us, and, as such, the apex of a hollow sky. It was not, how- 
ever, envisaged thus, but instead, its peak rises to the sky at 
the North Star where the axis of the sky is situated, and where, 
on the peak, the dwelling of the Over-god and his " golden 
throne n are situated. To this idea points also the assumption, 
met with everywhere in Asia, that the world-mountain is in 
the north. This appears quite clearly in a Buriat tale reflecting 
Indian views of life: "In the beginning was only water and a 
frog (turtle), which gazed into the water. God turned this 


animal over and created the world on its belly. On each foot 
he built a continent, but on the navel of the frog he founded 
the Sumbur-mountain. On the summit of this mountain is the 
North Star." In another tale in which a temple is placed on 
the summit of Sumbur, the North Star is the golden spire of 
the tower of this temple.* 

The cosmic mountain rising in this part of the sky was known 
long ago to the great civilized peoples of Nearer Asia. This 
idea appears also in the Bible. In the 14th chapter of Isaiah 
a proud being, who wished to "be like the most high," is 
described in the following words : " For thou hast said in thy 
heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above 
the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congre- 
gation, in the sides of the north," As the throne of God is 
believed to be on the summit of the world-mountain in the 
north, this point of the compass was the direction of the prayers 
of the Mandeans. 

Although the idea of this wonderful, cosmic mountain, as 
its name denotes, arose in India and travelled with a stream of 
civilization to the Mongol tribes, the same belief reached the 
Turco-Tatar peoples by other roads. The Suro (" Majesty ") 
mountain, appearing in the tales of the Altai Tatars, has doubt- 
less originated in Persia, as also the seven gods, who are be- 
lieved to dwell on this heavenly mountain and whose name 
Kudai is a loan-word from the Persian. 10 That the idea of 
the heavenly mountain was known also far away in Europe, 
is shown by the Himinbjorg (heaven-mountain) of Scandi- 
navian tales and by a Finnish poem on the origin of fire, in 
which it is asked where fire was born, the answer being: 
" There on the navel of the sky, on the peak of the famous 
mountain." u 

In comparing the above traditions we notice in them two 
leading ideas, one in which this world-mountain is merely 
a giant mountain in the centre of the earth-disc with a summit 
touching the sky, another in which the mountain itself is situ- 


ated in the sky, or the whole of the sky is imagined to be a 
mountain. Unless these ideas have a separate origin, the 
latter has in all probability developed from the former. The 
world-mountains of the ancient peoples — at least the Sumeru 
of India and the Hara Berezaiti of the Iranians — were cosmic, 
central mountains of the earth-disc. The Bundahtsh explains 
how all the stars, both fixed stars and planets, move round the 
mountain, to which they are bound as to the world-post. In 
a very interesting manner, both ideas are joined in the Sumeru 
of Chinese pictures, the mountain here resembling an hour- 
glass, comparatively narrow at its centre and widening both 
upwards and downwards j the upper part widens to a sky cover- 
ing the earth. 18 Still stranger forms can be seen in Japanese 
art, where this rather narrow central mountain widens at meas- 
ured intervals to represent the different storeys of Heaven. 1 * 
In this shape Sumeru resembles a tree rather than a mountain, 
and is well designed to throw light on the manner in which 
the branched world-tree may have developed from the world- 

A Central Asian tale places on this high, three-stepped cen- 
tral mountain a still greater world-tree. That this mountain, 
imagined as being three great steps, was rectangular, is shown 
by the fact that the summit, on which the world-tree stood, 
was " a square-shaped area." In addition, on each side of the 
mountain, there are said to be four mounds, which are called 
the four continents, believed by the inhabitants of India to be 
situated round Sumeru, one at each point of the compass. How 
impressive the view from the crown of the world-tree on the 
summit of the mountain is, appears from the fact, that looking 
from there, according to the tale, the earth floating in the 
ocean is no larger than the hoof of a horse. The height of the 
tree is pictured further by the idea that if a stone of the size 
of a bull is thrown down from there, it will reach the earth 
after the lapse of fifty years and then be no larger than a 


To this heaven-mountain idea, there is thus also connected 
the idea of a world-ocean. In an Altaic creation tale the moun- 
tain and the ocean are said to have existed before the earth 
peopled by men was created. 16 

The same mountain and ocean appear in the tales of the 
Mongols, in which an evil giant snake called Losy is spoken of, 
the home of which is in the ocean under the earth. By, squirt- 
ing poison on the earth, this being attempts to crush out life 
by killing men and animals. At the request of God the hero 
Otshirvani engaged this sea-monster in battle, but his powers 
were not sufficient to overcome it, and he nearly fell victim 
himself to the monster. Seeing this he fled from the earth and 
ascended the Sumer mountain where he changed himself to the 
mighty Garide bird. In this form he attacked the monster 
again, seized its head with his claws, dragging it three times 
round the world-mountain, and finally smashed in its head 
with a great rock. This giant snake is said to be so large that 
though its head is on the summit of the world-mountain, round 
which its body is wound three times, its tail is still in the 
ocean. 16 

This sea-monster, appearing in Central Asian tales also 
under the name of Abyrga, was known already among the 
ancient peoples of Asia, Along with Eastern myths and beliefs 
it wandered to Europe. In Scandinavia there are tales of the 
dreaded " Midgard snake," which " squirts poison " " scatter- 
ing this over air and land." At the end of the world, " when 
the sea will rise over the land " and " the giant snake squirms 
in its wrath and crawls on to the earth," Thor will at last 
succeed in killing it, falling dead himself from the poison 
which the snake will have ejected against him. 

As alien as the snake itself, is its vanquisher, the Garide 
bird, which is said to live on Sumeru mountain and thus repre- 
sents the heavenly powers in the tales of the Mongols. Its 
name is identifiable with that of the Indian bird Garuda. The 
hero Otshirvani, who changes himself into a bird, is the Bud- 


dhist Bodhisattva Vairapani, and is only an addition, taken 
from legends, to this ancient tale. 

Furthest developed is the cosmography with the Sumeru 
mountain in its centre, found at the present time in the teach- 
ings brought by Lamaism into Central and Eastern Asia.. Ac- 
cording to notes made among the Kalmucks the whole of the 
proportions of the universe is strictly fixed. The height of 
the central mountain is 80,000 leagues above the surface of the 
ocean, and at the same distance is its foundation in the world- 
ocean, where it rests on a stratum of gold, borne in its turn 
by a turtle. Round Sumeru there are seven circular " golden " 
mountain chains, divided from this and from each other by 
seven seas. Naturally these seas also are ring-shaped. The 
nearer a mountain chain is to the central mountain, the higher 
it is. The first is 40,000 leagues, the second 20,000, the third 
10,000, the fourth 5,000, the fifth 2,500, the sixth 1,250, 
and the seventh, or last, 625 leagues above the ocean. As 
with the height, the distance between these mountain chains 
is also exactly defined. The higher the mountains become, 
the further they are from each other. The distance of 
each from the central mountain is the same as their height. 
The water of each of these inland seas is fresh, but the 
last mountain chain is surrounded by a salt ocean, which in 
its turn is ringed in with an " iron " mountain chain 312^ 
leagues high. This iron chain, the circumference of which 
is 3,602,625 leagues and which is situated 322,000 leagues 
distant from the nearest mountain chain, forms the outer edge 
of the world. The circumference of the salt ocean is 3,600,750 

Sumeru itself is shaped like a pyramid slightly broken-off 
at the top. Its circumference at the surface of the sea is 2000 
leagues and at its summit 3^ leagues. The sides of the 
pyramid facing the different points of the compass glow with 
different colours. The southern side is blue, the western red, 
the northern yellow, and the eastern white. These different 



colours are said to come from the jewel or metal coverings 
of the different sides. On the south side there is a blue-gleam- 
ing and on the west a- red-glowing jewel covering, the north 
side is golden and the east silver. These four colours are 
reflected in the parts of the world facing them, and for this 
reason the south is called the blue, the west the red, the north 
the yellow, and the east the white point of the compass. 

In each direction there is a continent in the salt ocean, or as 
many as in certain tales already related. These continents are 
pictured as great islands, beside which there is on each side a 
smaller island, so that the total number of the islands sur- 
rounding the centre of the world is twelve. Without doubt, 
this conception, free from all geographical facts, reflects the 
beliefs connected with the twelve pictures of the cosmologic 
Zodiac. The Zodiac was already imagined by the ancient 
Babylonians as the " land of Heaven." As above, so are there 
twelve lands below. 

The people dwelling in these four continents differ from 
one another, above all, in the shape of their faces. The 
dwellers in the southern, or 
the continent in which India, 
China, Mongolia and many 
other lands are situated, have 
oval faces j those of the west 
round; those of the north 
square; and those of the east 
crescent-moon shaped faces. 
The continents themselves, as 
may be seen from the accom- 
panying illustration, are of 
the same shapes. 17 

This cosmography, which 
prevails in Tibet and in other Buddhistic districts, has its roots 
in the mists of antiquity. It is strange to find this colour idea 
connected with the four cardinal points also among certain 

Fig. i 5. A Kalmuck World-picture 



North American Indian tribes. Naturally, the colours of the 
different points vary among different peoples. The Chinese 
regard the east as blue, the south as red, the west as white, and 
the north as black. The colours of the cardinal points in 
America are black, white, yellow and blue, or, black, white, 
red and blue (green). 18 That these colour ideas have also had 
their counterparts in the sources of civilization in Nearer Asia 
is shown, e.g., by the belief, that when God created man he 
gathered differently coloured materials from the four quarters 
of the earth: i.e., red, black, white and brown. 


AT THE navel of the earth, in the centre of the universe, 
according to Altaic tales, the highest tree on earth, a 
giant silver-fir, raises its crown to the dwelling of Bai-Ylgon. 1 
Here we find the world-tree, situated in the earlier tales on 
the Sumeru mountain, removed to the navel or centre of the 
earth. Generally this tree is also imagined to grow on a high 
hill or mountain, especially on the central mountain of the 
earth, as appears from the words of a folk-poem already cited: 
"In the centre of the earth there is an iron mountain and on 
this iron mountain a white, seven-branched birch." But as 
this central mountain of the earth-disc is generally believed 
to hide its summit among the storeys of the sky, the tree itself, 
for very obvious reasons, has been raised into the sky, where, 
according to different beliefs and tales it continues to exist. 

In the beliefs of the peoplt3 related to the Turks this tree, 
which with the growth of the universe has grown from a small 
sapling to its present height, is intimately connected, like the 
world-mountain, with the construction of the universe.* And 
independently of whether it rises from the earth, a high moun- 
tain, or some storey in the sky, its position always resembles 
that of the world-pillar j like the former, the gods use this 
also to tether their horses to. In the fact, also, that it is often 
pictured as many-storeyed, it resembles the world-pillar. 
Thus, for example, in the shaman songs of the Vasyugan 
Ostiaks, which contain images obviously borrowed from the 
Tatars, this tree, like the heavens themselves, is said to be 
seven-storeyed.* More often, however, it is regarded as pierc- 
ing the different floors of the sky, thrusting at the same time, 



like the central mountain which is its foundation, its roots deep 
into the underground depths. 

This cosmic tree differs from the world-pillar chiefly in the 
fact that it is always regarded as a branched, living tree, an es- 
sential and at the same time most peculiar feature of which is 
Its freshness and sappiness. In most of the tales it is situated 
on the brink of some spring, lake or sea, even at times in the 
water itself. The Ostiaks speak of " the watery sea of the 
heaven-centre " beside which this tree grows. 4 The water from 
which the tree nourishes itself is described in a Minusinsk 
Tatar poem as follows: 

" Piercing twelve heavens 
On the summit of a mountain 
A birch in the misty depths of air. 
Golden are the birch's leaves, 
Golden its bark, 

In the ground at its foot a basin 
Full of the water of life, 
In the basin a golden ladle. ..." 

In the poem it is mentioned further that this " birch n is 
watched over by the forefather of the Tatars, the old Tata, 
who was given this post by the Creator himself. 8 

The same wonderful birch is met with in the tales of East 
European people. Thus, the Mordvins tell of a giant birch 
growing on a hill in the depths of the forest, the roots of which 
ring round the earth and whose branches surround the heavens. 
Its leaves are of the size of the palm of a hand, and its buds 
as long as the lash of a whip. At the root of the birch is sL 
spring, roofed over with carved boards and white sheets, on 
its edge a red wooden can, in the can a sweet honey-drink, and 
in the liquid a silver ladle, the bottom' of which is decorated 
with the sun and the moon, the handle with the smaller stars. 
As the sun moves in the heavens, the handle of the ladle turns 
with it. 6 

More interesting is this tree glowing with life in the folk- 
lore of the Yakuts. 


On the yellow navel of the eight-edged earth, according to 
one of their tales, there is a dense, eight-branched tree. Its 
bark and knots are silver, its sap golden, its cones like nine- 
cornered goblets, and its leaves wide as the hide of a horse. 
From the crown of the tree runs foaming a heavenly, yellowish 
liquid. When passers-by drink of this, the tired among them 
are refreshed and the hungry become satisfied. 7 

This life-giving tree is, according to the Yakut tales, the 
dwelling-place of " the First Man "; and therefore some sort 
of paradise. When " the First Man," on appearing on the 
earth, wished to know why he had been created, he approached 
this giant tree, the crown of which " pierces through the three- 
storeyed Heaven " and " along the branches of which a light- 
coloured liquid flows " bringing blessedness to the one tasting 
it, and saw an opening appear in the trunk, from which opening 
a female, visible only to the waist, informed him that he had 
been created to become the father of the human race. 8 

A variant of this same tale describes " the First Man n as 
" the White Youth." " Above the wide motionless depths, 
below the seven storeys, the nine discs of heaven, in the central 
place, on the navel of the earth, in the quietest place, where 
the moon does not decline, nor the sun sink, where there is 
summer without winter and the cuckoo sings eternally, was 
the White Youth," He set out to walk to see where he had 
appeared, and what his dwelling-place was like. In the east 
he saw a wide, lightish plain, on the plain a mighty hill and 
on the hill a giant tree. The resin of the tree was transparent 
and sweetly perfumed, its bark never dried or cracked, its 
sap was silvery, its leaves never withered and its cones were 
like a row of reversed goblets. The crown of the tree rose 
over the seven storeys of Heaven, being the tethering-post of 
the Over-god Yryn-ai-tojon, and its roots went deep down 
into the underground depths where they were the dwelling- 
pillars of the strange mythical beings there. By means of its 
leaves the tree talked with the dwellers in Heaven. 


Walking southward the White Youth saw a calm w lake of 
milk " in. the centre of a green, grassy plain, which lake was 
never rippled by, a breath of wind and on the shores of which 
were curdled swamps. In the north was a dark forest, where 
the trees rustled day and night and where all manner of 
animals moved. Behind the forest rose high mountains, bear- 
ing caps that resembled white rabbit-skin j the mountains 
leaned against the heavens, protecting these from cold winds. 
In the west grew a low tangle of bushes^ behind these a high 
forest of firs, and behind the forest solitary blunt-headed 
mountains were just discernible. 

Such was the world, in which the White Youth saw the 
light of day. Tired of his lonely existence he approached the 
tree of life and said: " Honoured High Mistress, Spirit of my 
tree and my dwelling-place, everything living moves in couples 
and gives birth to descendants, but I am alone. I wish to travel 
and seek a partner worthy of me, I wish to know other people 
and measure my strength against them, I wish to live as a man 
should. Do not refuse thy blessing, I pray to thee with 
humbled, bowed head and with bent knees." 

Then the leaves of the tree commenced to rustle and a fine 
milk-white rain dripped from them upon the White Youth. 
A warm zephyr was felt, the tree creaked, and from under its 
roots a female being arose up to her waist. This spirit of the 
tree and of the place is described by, the tale as a grave-eyed, 
middle-aged woman with flowing locks and naked bosom. The 
goddess offered the Youth milk from her swelling breasts, and 
having drunk, he felt how his powers had grown a hundred- 
fold. At the same time the goddess promised him every 
happiness and blessed him so that neither water, fire, iron nor 
anything else could harm him." 

It is obvious that this tale cannot have originated among the 
Yakuts in the cold atmosphere of North-East Siberia, but, as 
the glowing description of Paradise hints at, in the lap of a 
much richer and more fertile nature. With the help of the 


description of nature in the tale, in which the mountains with 
white caps resembling rabbit-skin appearing in the north are 
obviously snow-clad mountains, we can endeavour to find the 
birthplace of this story, which pre-supposes the knowledge both 
of a fertile vegetation and of snow-clad mountains. We turn 
naturally then either to India or Nearer Asia. But the para- 
dise landscape cannot, however, as such be used as a guide, as 
the " lake of milk " and other details belong to the beliefs 
connected with the navel of the earth. In addition the land- 
scape differs somewhat in the different variants. 

Before examining the above tale more minutely, we will 
glance at a few additional details throwing more light on the 
tree of life, these details being contained in the examples of 
the Yakut language published by Middendorff. In these the 
first man, " the ancestor of the Yakuts," is called Ar-soghotoch 
("the Lonely Man "), His dwelling also is spoken of, which 
is in the centre of the plain and has four silver-gleaming 
corners, forty windows, fifty pillars, and thirty roof -trees j 
the walls and the golden floor are fourfold and the silver roof 
threefold. Altogether this dwelling would therefore seem to 
have possessed seven storeys. The tree of life itself is de- 
scribed in the following words: " When he comes out of 
his dwelling on to the balcony towards the east to see the land- 
scape, he has before him the king of trees, which grows among 
the grass. This tree over which swings the blue air, is so old 
that Its age cannot be reckoned in centuries. Its roots stretch 
through Hades and its crown pierces the nine heavens. The 
length of each leaf is seven fathoms and that of the cones 
nine fathoms. From under its roots foams the ' eternal water. 3 
When its aged, starved and weary, white or dark cattle, its 
flying or running game, drink or lick the sap and resin which 
drip from this tree's branches and cones, gathering and form- 
ing a brawling stream, they acquire again their former youth 
and overflowingness." It is further related that when the 
spirit oi the trec $ " a white-haired aged goddess," mottled of 


body like a woodcock and with breasts as large as "leather- 
bags," appears, the tree creaks and groans, growing smaller, 
until with the re-entrance of the goddess it regains its former 
size. From this spirit of the tree the Lonely Man receives 
the knowledge that his father is the Heaven god Ar-tojon 
(" The High Lord ") and his mother Kybai-Khotun (" Kybai 
Mistress "), who had immediately after his birth lowered him 
from the third heaven to the earth so that he might become 
the forefather of the human race. At the same time the spirit 
takes water from under the roots of the tree and pours it into 
a bladder, which she gives to her ward, saying: " Fasten this 
under thy left arm, in the uttermost danger it will save thee." 
Later, according to the tale, the hero fights a duel on a court- 
ship journey with a wicked dragon, receiving a blow in the 
heart, but the bladder bursting at the same time and its con- 
tents flowing on to the wound, his heart becomes immediately 
whole, giving him in addition his powers back ninefold. 10 

Where and how the tree of life ideas in this Yakut tale 
may have originated in the mists of antiquity, related tales are 
already met with among the ancient peoples in India, in Iran, 
in Mesopotamia, and in Egypt. As is well known, the corre- 
sponding beliefs of the ancient Semites are reflected in the 
Bible : " And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow 
every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the 
tree of life also in the midst of the garden. . . ." As in the 
Yakut tale the first man dwells here beside the tree of life. 
Similarly the nourishment afforded by the tree gives eternal 
life. The same conceptions appear from the following words 
from the Book of Revelation: " To him that overcometh will 
I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the 
paradise of God." And for the belief that the water of life 
flows under the roots of the tree we find a counterpart in other 
words from the same book: " And he shewed me a pure river 
of water of life . . . and on either side of the river was there 
the tree of life which bare twelve manner of fruits and yielded 


her fruit every month : and the leaves of the tree were for the 
healing of the nations." Here we find also the health-giving 
properties of the tree of life mentioned. It is thus obvious 
that the Yakut tale and the images in the Bible are derived 
from a common foundation idea. In the former there are 
several additional details, such as the milk-breasted goddess, 
which are unknown to the Bible and cannot be regarded as hav- 
ing sprung from legends formed on the Bible stories, but must 
have had some other tale related to this as model. 

Just as many of the Central and Northern Asian tales place 
the tree of life on a high hill or mountain, even in Heaven it- 
self, so the Semitic paradise was imagined to be, sometimes on 
the central mountain of the earth, sometimes in Heaven. From 
the fact that the ancient Babylonians already in olden times 
knew of the paradise-mountain of the gods, the tree, and the 
water of life, we may conclude that this belief, relics of which 
have come down to us from ancient times, is of extreme age 
among the civilized peoples of Nearer Asia. 

The corresponding beliefs in Indian mythology are pointed 
to further by the above mentioned Central Asian tale in which 
the mighty world-tree is situated on the Sumeru mountain. 
That this tree was the tree of life, the following tale, likewise 
from Central Asia, shows: "In the beginning was no land, 
only water out of which rose two great mountains. On the 
summit of one were three temples, harbouring thirty-three 
Tengeri or gods. At the foot of the mountain was a triangular 
plain, from which rose the extremely high Zambu tree, with 
its crown higher than the mountain. The Tengeri ate of its 
fruit, but the beings living under the tree, the Asuras, shouted 
to the Tengeri : ' Why do you eat from the tree growing on 
our land? ' The Asuras became at last so inflamed that they 
commenced to war against the Tengeri; in this war, however, 
they lost and were vanquished. The gods then threw down 
sand from the mountain, and even gold, and in this way 
the earth was created, on to which two gods, male and 


female, descended in order to people the earth with their 
descendants." " 

In the beginning of the tale, two eternal mountains are thus 
mentioned, which appear thousands of years earlier in the cos- 
mology of the ancient civilized peoples of Nearer Asia, but 
only one is described in detail, the Tengeri dwelling on the 
summit of which are the thirty-three gods of the Sumeru 
mountain of Indian mythology. Similarly, the beings dwell- 
ing at the foot of the mountain are the Asura giants of 
India, who were believed to dwell in the bottomless chasms 
of Meru, and from there warred against Indra and other gods. 
The Zambu tree also, from which the gods were nourished is, 
as the name shows, the Indian tree of life, Jambu. According 
to Buddhistic mythology this tree has sixteen large branches 
but a multitude of smaller ones. Its ruddy-grey leaves are as 
fine as the purest silk and its flowers glowing like gold. In 
its fruit there are hundreds of sweet lumps, of the size of 
goose-eggs, which drive away all diseases. The golden-yellow 
sap of the tree drips like melting butter. The beings living 
around procure their nourishment from this tree of life. 18 

It is probable that the idea of a tree of life among the 
Indians has its roots in distant ages, as already in the poems of 
the Veda the immortality-producing nourishment of Soma, 
. which grew on a mountain, is mentioned. Corresponding to 
this is the Haoma of Iranian mythology, imagined as a fertile, 
golden-flowered tree of life and as such placed on the central 
mountain of the world, Hara Berezaiti. The Rauhina tree 
of the Indian poem Sufarnadhyaya, from which a mythological 
eagle, the Garuda, known as the robber of Soma, breaks off 
a branch, is probably also a relic of a tree of life, in which the 
said bird, according to earlier ideas, was believed to live. In 
the folk-poetry of the Iranians we meet with this mythological 
bird in the crown of the tree of life. 

The Indian tales cannot, however, be regarded as the model 
for the Yakut tale mentioned. Their tree of life resembles 


more the ancient Egyptian pictures, in which a date-palm de- 
scribed as being partly a tree and partly a woman, gives to its 
ward nourishment producing eternal life. Sometimes this 
tree is seen pictured on the brink of the spring of the water of 

The tree of life of the Yakuts with its goddess appearing 
from the roots resembles also the Yggdrasil of the Icelandic 
Edda, " Which is the greatest and best of all trees," whose 
" branches cover the whole earth and rise over the heavens," 
whose " tall trunk is hidden by a white fluid " and which will 
" stagger first when the world ends." Under this " openly 
flourishing tree, dripping honey-dew" is a wonderful spring, 
Urdarbrunn, beside which under the roots of the tree live the 
three deities of birth and fate, the Norns. If we compare 
Yggdrasil with the Yakut tree of life, it becomes obvious that 
they are identical, even to their details, with the exception that 
under the tree of life of the Scandinavian poem there are three, 
and under the Yakut, only one goddess. 

The eagle also of the Edda, which sits in the crown of the 
tree, and the Nidhugg snake under its roots are details closely 
connected with the tree of life of Central Asia. The Kalmucks 
relate how a dragon in the sea at the foot of the Zambu tree 
lay in wait for the leaves dropping from Zambu. The leaves 
which it failed to catch, sinking to the bottom, turned into gold 
there. 14 In the Buriat poems a mythological snake called 
Abyrga is said to dwell at the foot of the tree in a tl lake of 
milk." 1B In certain Central Asian tales the Abyrga snake 
twines round the tree itself, while at the same time the Garide 
eagle living in the crown attacks and pecks at it. 3 " This 
Garide, which when flying furiously causes storms, is, as the 
name indicates, the Indian Garuda, the well-known robber of 

The precursors of the Yakut tales have probably been the 
paradise ideas of the ancient Iranians, like the beliefs of 
the West Siberian peoples, who place this mighty tree on " the 


iron mountain " rising from the centre of the earth-disc. From 
ancient Persian literature we see that they also called the cen- 
tral mountain of the earth Hara Berezaiti, " the iron moun- 
tain," on the summit of which they believed the tree of life to 
be. On this mountain where, under the tree of life, is the 
spring of the water of life, Ardvisura, and the paradise of the 
Iranians, dwells the first man, Gajomartan, as in the Yakut 
paradise. Like the latter the Iranians also pictured him as a 
" white " being." With the help of these facts we can assume 
that the tale in question has spread along with a current of 
civilization from the Iranians to the Turco-Tatar peoples, and 
with the Yakuts wandered to the distant River Lena, where 
their folk-lore was able to preserve it as near the original 
as has been shown, and thus to hand down to the present 
generation a valuable relic of the paradise ideas of the Iranians 
and the whole East, of which ideas only scanty and scattered 
fragments are to be found in ancient literature. 

With the greater reason, therefore, do we turn our attention 
to the Yakut conception of the tree of life. From the pre- 
ceding tales we have seen that besides " the First Man," the 
whole of the animals of creation dwell near the tree, and that 
it is regarded as the nourisher of them all. But in the begin- 
ning the tree would seem to have had a still more marvellous 
significance. A variant of the tale describes how the Over-god 
and the goddess of Birth and Fate, Kybai-Khotun, the name 
also of the spirit dwelling in the tree, gave birth to the first 
man in the third heaven, from which he was lowered down to 
the earthj but despite this, the other version goes on to details 
showing how the ancestor of the human race really appeared 
in his life-giving surroundings. His curiosity as to where he 
has come from leads him to the conclusion that he has been 
born in those very surroundings. This appears, e.g., from his 
words: " If I had dropped down from heaven, I should be 
covered with snow and hoar-frost, if I had come from the 
south or the north, from the east or the west of the central 


place (the earth), I should bear marks of trees and grass and 
I should give out the scent of the windj if I had risen from the 
bowels of the earth, I should have the dust of the earth on 
me.'* 1S It appears probable, therefore, that the milk-breasted 
goddess of the wonderful tree has given birth to him and that 
"the First Man " is right in saying to her: " Be my mother, 
as though thou hadst given birth to me; be my creator, as 
though thou hadst created me." Motherly care is also defined 
in the words: " Thou hast brought up me, an orphan, to man's 
estate, thou hast suffered me, the little one, to grow up." " 

Further, we can hardly be mistaken in assuming that all 
the living beings crowded round this tree have the spirit to 
thank for their existence. Man at least confesses: " Thou hast 
brought up my white cattle, for my black beasts hast thou 
cared, protected my, birds and my game, and kept together the 
fishes of my black waters." so 

With the Central Asian ideas of the tree of life, as an essen- 
tial feature, we have seen the belief connected that under the 
roots of the tree is a spring containing the water of life. In 
the tales of the Yakuts the tree itself is sometimes said to drip 
a sap-like fluid so copiously, that a foaming brook is formed. 
Under the Iranian tree of life there is a spring in which all the 
rivers of the earth have their source. Even the belief that 
the tree of life rises out of a lake or sea of wonderful water 
is met with. 

Thus, e.g., the Kalmucks tell how the Zambu tree rises out 
of the Marvo Sea, which is as deep as it is broad and contains 
water of eight different elements. From this sea run four 
great rivers. These are said to flow towards the different 
points of the compass and, after having made seven turnings, 
to return to their source of origin. On their journey, each 
river receives the waters of five hundred tributaries. The sea 
itself is regarded as a mountain-lake, as each river pierces a 
rock, said to resemble some animal. The rivers flowing towards 
the east, south, west, and north emerge from rocks which are 


respectively like the mouths of an elephant, a bull, a horse, 
and a lion. 21 The animals in this tale represent the points of 
the compass, a belief extremely old among the civilized peoples 
of Asia, though the animals themselves may vary. Thus, 
in the Chinese tale the east is represented by a blue dragon, 
the south by a red bird, the west by a white tiger, and the 
north by a black turtle. To prevent diseases the Mongols 
are said to have built on the site of an old Chinese town a sanc- 
tuary (obo) y at the four sides of which they erected wooden 
images of the points of the compass, i.e., a tiger, a lion, an 
eagle, and a dragon. 22 

That these four rivers of the Kalmuck tales have their 
source at the very centre of the earth, is shown by the 
fact that they are believed to carry with them the materials 
decorating the sides of the central mountain. The eastern 
river contains silver sand, the southern blue jewel sand, the 
western red jewel sand and the northern gold sand. 

There can be no doubt of the fact that these ideas of the 
Kalmucks have come down to them from India along with 
the currents of civilization, even though these four rivers of 
paradise have, as the Bible shows, been known also to the 
Semitic race. 


BESIDES the destruction caused by the subsidence of the 
pillar supporting the sky, other dangers also are be- 
lieved to threaten the earth peopled by men. To the idea that 
the earth is situated on the bosom of a great cosmic ocean is at- 
tached the fear that the foundations of the earth may give way 
or that it may become inundated. The Asian tales of the dif- 
ferent periods of the earth relate how a great flood once de- 
stroyed all life on it, and how a human being who escaped 
became the ancestor of a new race of men. Tales of this 
description are met with also among the Altaic peoples. 
Whether these are founded on ancient borrowings, and whether 
they contain any direct remainders of such loans, is difficult to 
conclude} in their present state, as known to us, they would 
seem to represent later currents of civilization. One may as- 
sume, however, that later arriving legends have been prone to 
sweep aside the more ancient forms of this tale. 

A very common modern form is found in the following 
Buriat tale: Before the flood arrived, Burkhan advised a cer- 
tain man to build himself a great ship. Following the advice 
of God, the man went to the forest, where he worked through- 
out the days. At last his wife, becoming curious, wished to 
know what her husband worked at so industriously in the 
forest. To keep his intention secret, the man replied that he 
chopped wood there. While the man was away, the devil, 
Shitkur, came to the woman explaining that her husband had 
deceived her and that he was building a great ship in the forest. 
And in the end the devil begged the woman to help him, 
saying: "The ship will soon be ready and thy husband will 



invite thee to enter it, but do thou refuse, and when he be- 
comes angry and strikes thee, say to him: 'Why, dost thou 
strike me, Shitkur? ' When thou enterest the ship after this, I 
shall accompany thee." The woman promised to follow the 
advice of the devil. Soon a great flood threatened to destroy 
the whole earth and the builder of the ship exhorted his 
family to enter his vessel, but the wife resisted so long that 
the man became angry and began to beat her. The wife then 
said, as the devil had taught her: " Why, dost thou strike me, 
Shitkur? " When she finally went on board, the devil was 
enabled to accompany her. The tale tells in addition how, 
with the help of Burkhan, the man gathered specimens of all 
the animals into his ship with the exception of the Prince of 
animals (Argalan-Zon), which deemed itself so large that no 
flood could drown it. Having entered the vessel, the devil 
changed himself into a mouse and began to gnaw holes in the 
bottom of the vessel, until Burkhan created the cat to catch 
the mouse. As the flood was so great that it destroyed all the 
animals left on the earth, the Prince of animals, whose bones 
may be found in the earth today, was also drowned. 1 Ac- 
cording to other tales the animal which failed to survive the 
flood was the mammoth. 2 

In a tale recorded among the Sagaiyes, in which the builder 
of the ship is called Noj, the devil tempts his wife to inquire 
what he is building in the forest, and having found out, begins 
to destroy by night what Noj builds during the day. Thus, 
when the flood begins, the vessel is not yet completed, and 
God is forced to send down to the man a vessel of iron, in 
which Noj with his wife and family and all kinds of animals 
are saved. 3 

In both tales, our attention is called to the part played by 
the devil; otherwise they resemble the Bible story of the flood. 
The Noj of these tales is unquestionably the Noah of the 

The corresponding tales of the Irtysh Ostiaks and the South- 


ern Voguls make the devil give the wife of the hero of the 
flood a strong drink, by the help of which she entices her 
husband to relate his secret. The Ostiaks call the man by a 
name borrowed from the Tatars, Pairekse.* 

A legend corresponding in all its details is known also to 
the peoples of East Europe, where it is probably of literary 
origin. It is to be found at least in the Russian version of the 
Revelations of Pseudo-Methodius. With Russian settlers it 
may possibly have migrated in this form to Siberia, where told 
by these, it has been written down, e.g., in the territory behind 
the Baikal. In its chief points, this Russian legend is as 
follows: In order to find out why Noah is building his ark, 
the devil advises his wife to prepare a strong drink, having 
drunk of which Noah, in a state of intoxication, informs his 
wife of the secret entrusted to him by God. The devil dis- 
turbs Noah in his work, and when the ark is at last completed, 
he creeps into it in the company of Noah's wife, who has 
tempted her husband into pronouncing the devil's name. Ar- 
rived in the ark, in the guise of a mouse, he gnaws holes in the 
bottom of the ark." 

The flood tale of Pseudo-Methodius is without doubt a late 
Eastern apocryphal legend founded on the Bible story. That 
the wife of Noah, who is not especially mentioned in the Bible, 
was also the subject of tales among the Arabians, is suggested 
by the passage in the Koran, in which Noah's wife is mentioned, 
together with the wife of Lot, as being among the damned. 
Further, the manner in which the devil succeeds in entering 
the ark in the company of Noah's wife, greatly resembles the 
following Islamic tale, as already pointed out by Dahnhardt: 
When the ark was completed and all the animals hurried there 
in pairs, Noah saw that the ass lingered behind; annoyed, he 
shouted to Jt: " Come in, thou accursed! " This moment 
was taken advantage of by the evil Iblis, who answered, when 
the astonished Noah asked him how he had come into the 
ark: " I came at thine invitation, there being among the 


creations of God none accursed but I." 6 There are, how- 
ever, no indications that the already cited tales could have 
spread into Siberia from Islam. 

Nearer the Bible story than any other ancient flood tale 
known to us, is the following Altaic tale: "Up to the time 
when the flood {jaik) hid all the earth, Tengys (Sea) was 
lord over the earth. During his rule there lived a man called 
Nama, a good man, whom Ulgen commanded to build an ark 
(kerep), Nama, who had three sons, Sozun-uul, Sar-uul, and 
Balyks, was already failing of sight and therefore left the 
building of the ark to his sons. When the ark, which was built 
on a mountain, was completed, Nama told his sons to hang 
from its corners and walls eight cables of eighty fathoms each, 
by the help of which he could later determine ' how many days 
it takes for the water to rise eighty fathoms.' After this had 
been done, Nama entered the ark, taking with him his family 
and the various animals and birds which, threatened by the ris- 
ing waters, gathered around him. Seven days later the cables 
attached to the earth gave way and the ark drifted free. This 
showed that the water had already risen eighty fathoms. 
When seven days had elapsed again, Nama told his eldest son 
to open the window of the ark and to look around. Sozun-uul 
looked in all directions and then said : * Everything has sunk 
under the waters, only the summits of the mountains are in 
sight.' Later, when ordered by his father to look out again, 
he was able to answer: ( Nothing is to be seen, only the sky 
and the waters. 1 At last the ark stopped on eight closely 
situated mountains. Then Nama himself opened the window 
and set free the raven, which, however, did not return. On the 
second day he released the crow, and on the third the rook, 
but neither of these returned. On the fourth day he sent out 
the dove, which returned with a twig of birch in its beak. 
From this bird Nama also heard why the other birds had not 
returned. The raven had found the carcase of a deer, the 
crow that of a dog, and the rook that of a horse, which they had 


stayed behind to devour. Hearing this, Nama became enraged 
and laid a curse on these birds, saying: ' What they are doing 
now, let them continue with to the end of the world! ' w The 
tale goes on to relate that when Nama had become very old, 
his wife exhorted him to kill all the men and animals he had 
saved from the flood, so that, being transferred to the other 
world, they would be under his power there also. Under the 
ceaseless exhortations of his wife, Nama became restless and 
did not know what to do. Then his son Sozun-uul, who knew 
the intentions of his mother but did not dare to oppose her 
openly, related to his father the following incident : " I saw j 

a blue-black cow devouring a human being so that only the ] 

legs were any longer to be seen.'* Having understood this | 

fable, Nama seized his sword and cleft his wife in two, begin- i 

ning at the head. Finally Nama removed to heaven, taking j 

his son Sozun-uul with him, and changing the latter into a I 

constellation of five stars. 7 ! 

Thus, in this tale also, the wife of the hero of the flood j 

is pictured as a wicked person. Otherwise, the tale differs I 

greatly from the preceding dualistic tales and has obviously ! 

reached Central Asia apart from these. Among some of the 
Altaic peoples the hero of the flood has also become the object 
of certain beliefs. As such he is often called Jaik-Khan ( K the \ 

Flood Prince ") and is prayed to as the intervener between [ 

the Over-god and man, and as the protector of man. In some \ 

places a white lamb is sacrificed to him annually in the spring. ! 

The sacrifice is carried out on a high mountain. He is also J 

supposed to be the ruler of the dead, and as such is invited i 

to the house-purification ceremonies forty days after a death, "( 

and begged to return the domestic animals, which the dead, 
according to the people, sometimes take with them. In the 
shaman rites also he is often spoken with and desired to con- > 

vey the prayers of the people to the Over-god. 8 His dwelling- ^ 

place is situated in the third heaven, where the paradise of the 
blessed is, and from there, at suitable times, he sends his mes- 


senger with a soul for a child born on the earth. In this 
capacity he is called Jajutshi (" the Orderer ")." 

These ideas of the Altai Tatars correspond to those which 
the Irtysh Ostiaks have borrowed for their Pairekse from the 
Tatars. As we have already seen, the latter also is regarded 
as the hero of the flood, appearing besides in some tales as 
the " Writer man,'* who writes in heaven, in the Book of Fate, 
according to the dictation of God, how long and in what cir- 
cumstances a human being is to live on the earth. 

Not only as the ancestor of the present human race, but 
also as a kind of Creator does the hero of the flood appear in 
the flood tales of the Soyots: When the giant frog (turtle) 
supporting the earth happened to move once, the cosmic ocean 
began to flood the earth. A certain old man who had guessed 
that something of the kind would happen, built a raft 
strengthened with iron, placed himself upon it with his family, 
and was saved. With the decline of the waters the raft 
grounded on a high wooded mountain, where it is said to be 
still. After the flood, this Kezer-Tshingis-Kaira-Khan re- 
created everything we now see around us. He is especially 
mentioned as having taught people how to prepare strong 
drinks, an invention accredited also to the hero of the Bible 
story. 10 

How deeply the story of the flood has taken root in the 
beliefs of the peoples around the Altai, is shown by their 
obstinate belief that the raft or the ark is still today on the 
summit of one of the local mountains, where, however, it is 
not good for man to search for it, as none have returned from 
the spot alive. In other places, tradition tells that on the site 
of the grounding of the ark, great nails have been found, 
believed to be remains of the vessel of the flood." 

But in what manner can the hero of the flood have risen to 
godlike eminence* to be the object of worship, and have had 
ascribed to him so wide a field of action as he actually has 
among the Altaic peoples? Without doubt, the beliefs of the 


Iranians may be regarded as having brought this about. Their 
" First Man," Yima, who was worshipped as the ruler over 
souls, was at the same time the hero of the flood. This ruler 
is met with in Altai Tatar tales as Schal-Jime, the first part of 
the name being a deformation of a Thibetan word meaning 
" Prince of Death." In one Altaic creation-tale God says: 
" Thou art my man, Schal-Jime j look well after the man who 
has tasted strong drink, and little children, foals, calves and 
lambs j those dying happily take to thee! " 12 According to the 
preceding, Schal-Jime, like Jaik-Khan, is the ruler over in- 
fants and those dying happily. 

Some of the more northern peoples of Siberia tell how the 
flood brought about the origin of many races and many lan- 
guages, a question dealt with in the Bible in connection with 
the tower of Babel. The Ugrians tell how the people saved 
on their rafts drifted in different directions, settling after the 
flood in different parts of the earth. 13 In the same way, with- 
out mentioning any special hero, the Yenisei Ostiaks relate: 
When the water rose continuously during seven days, part of 
the people and animals were saved by climbing on to the logs 
and rafters floating on the water. But a strong north wind, 
which blew without ceasing for seven days, scattered the people 
far from one another. And for this reason they began, after 
the flood, to speak different languages and to form different 
peoples. 1 * 

Original and unaffected as these tales appear to be, especially 
in the frequently flooded Yenisei district, where the hated 
north wind often causes trouble, we cannot even here, in this 
primitive state, assume the story to have originated in North 
Siberia. Above all, the influence of foreign flood tales seems 
to be apparent in the seven-day periods of time. Compared 
with the former tales, however, these latter would seem to 
represent a new type. 

Far away in the north, on the tundras of the Samoyeds, 
a flood tale has also been recorded, in which, as in the ancient 


Indian tales, seven persons are said to have been saved in a 
boat. The Samoyeds go on to relate how, after the flood, a 
terrible drought followed, so that these survivors were nearly 
dying of thirst. From this disaster, however, they were saved 
by digging a deep hole in the ground, in which water formed. 
More difficult was the finding of nourishment. This caused all 
but one young man and one maid to die of hunger, these two 
having started to eat the mice which came out of the ground. 
From this couple the present human race is descended. 15 

For the sake of comparison a flood tale from North-East 
Siberia may be given, according to which people were saved 
by binding together trunks of trees into great rafts. Establish- 
ing themselves on these, they took with them sufficient provi- 
sions for the duration of the flood. To prevent the rafts from 
drifting out to sea, the people fastened rocks to long ropes 
which were then dropped to the bottom as anchors. Finally, 
these log-rafts grounded on a high mountain. 16 In the above 
form this story is told, e.g., by the Kamchadales. 

Besides a destructive flood, some of the North Siberian 
peoples speak also of a great conflagration, which once de- 
stroyed all life on the earth. The Tungus from behind the 
Baikal describe it as follows: In the beginning was the earth, 
but then a great fire raged for seven years and the earth was 
burned up. Everything became sea. All the Tungus were 
consumed except a boy and a girl who rose up with an eagle 
into the sky. Having wandered for a time in the air, they 
descended to a place where the water had dried up. With 
them the eagle also descended to the earth." 

Of an all-devouring conflagration the Voguls also speak, 
telling how God sent a sea of fire upon the earth in order to 
destroy the devil. The cause of the fire they call u the fire- 
water." In the destruction of all creation, only the gods and 
a few mortals succeeded in saving themselves. The former 
placed themselves on an " iron ship," the latter on a " seven- 
bottomed beech -raft," which was provided in addition with 


a fireproof, sevenfold cover of sturgeon-skin. The tale 
gives thus the same means of escape as the ordinary flood 
tales, which the conflagration tales of the Voguls otherwise 

The tales of the Voguls also tell of a recurring conflagration, 
the fearful thunder of which the " Earth-watching man " hears 
from afar. This hero decides to ride through the fire, " one 
side of which glows in the heights of the sky, the other burning 
at both corners of the sky." With the help of his magic horse 
he succeeds also in his attempt. Munkacsi believes the Aurora 
Borealis to have been the original source of these ideas. 18 This 
he assumes is meant by the " sea of fire " through which the 
hero rides for seven days. Obviously, this great phenomenon 
of North Siberia has played a great part in awakening the 
imagination of the people, the white streaks appearing among 
the Northern Lights being sometimes called "The track of 
the white horse of the Earth-watching man," but even then 
this tale can hardly have been born among the Ugrians. A 
hero riding across a sea of fire on a magic steed is a story- 
theme met with over a wide area. Neither can the steed be 
identified with the eagle of the Tungus tale, although the con- 
flagration tales of the two peoples seem to have much in 
common. As mentioned before, the fire in the Tungus tale 
lasts for seven years, corresponding to the description in the 
Vogul tale: "Already for seven winters and summers the 
fire has raged, already for seven winters and summers it has 
burnt up the earth." " 

Conflagration tales have also been noted down elsewhere in 
Asia. Thus, for instance, in East India it is told how God, as 
mankind sank deeper into sin, sent a flood of fire on to the 
earth, here also called " water of fire." Two people only, 
brother and sister, were saved by hiding themselves. 20 The 
ancient civilized peoples of Nearer Asia would also seem to 
have known these conflagration tales. 

Quite obvious is the alien influence in such Central Asian 



tales which tell how a great fire will occur at the end of the 
world and burn up the whole earth. 

The Altai Tatars say that when Olgen sends Maidere (a 
Buddhist Bodhisattva) from the sky, who will teach people 
the fear of God and convert the greater part of mankind, the 
evil Erlik will become angry and say to Maidere: " I am 
strong enough to kill thee with my sword." At the same 
time the devil will attack Maidere and fulfil his threat. The 
blood of Maidere, said to turn the whole world red, will take 
fire, the flames surrounding the earth and rising to the heavens. 
Then Olgen will arrive and clapping his hands together shout: 
*'Ye dead, arise! " And at once these will arise from their 
hiding-places, some out of the earth and some from the sea, 
others from the fire or the places in which they had hidden 
when overtaken by. death. In the world-conflagration Erlik 
and all wicked people will be destroyed. 21 

This mighty drama of the end of the world, in which the 
powers of good and evil engage in a final contest and in which 
evil is completely destroyed, is probably Iranian eschatology, 
preached perhaps in Central Asia by the apostles of Manicheism 
in their time. 

Comparable with the eschatology of the Bible is also the 
belief of the Buriats, that at the end of the world a great 
river of fire will flow from the east to the west, throwing its 
sparks everywhere so that the whole of creation will be set 
alight. In the place of this old earth it is believed, however, 
that a new one will appear with new inhabitants. 22 


THE TRANS-BAIKAL Tungus relate how Buga (the 
Heaven god) made the first two people out of various 
materials which he gathered from the four quarters of the 
earth. From the east he brought iron, from the south fire, 
from the west water, and from the north earth. Out of the 
earth he created the flesh and the bones, out of the iron the 
heart, out of the water blood, and out of the fire warmth. 1 

According to a Yeside creation story God made the body 
of Adam by mixing the four elements, fire, water, air and earth. 
Old Jewish, Arabian and Syrian tales describe also how God, 
when creating the first man, gathered material from the four 
corners of the earth.* According to the Jewish story, these 
materials of which God made the body of Adam in the centre 
of the earth, were of different colours, red, black, white and 
brown, from which we may assume that, as in the Tungus* tale, 
each contained some element connected with some quarter of 
the earth. Thus the first man was a kind of microcosmos, 
closely related to the macrocosmos. 

This ancient fancy is to be found also in Russian tales of 
creation. In one manuscript from the twelfth century the four 
quarters of the earth have been doubled, the story relating 
that God gathered material from eight directions. In later 
tales, of which one is from the sixteenth century, it is said 
that Adam's body, i.e., the flesh, was made of earth, his bones 
of stone, his ligaments of roots, his blood of water, his eyes 
of the suri, his thoughts of clouds, his spirit of wind and his 
warmth of fire. According to another tale God made the body 
of earth, the bones of stone, the ligaments of roots, the blood 


of water, the hair of grass, the thoughts of wind (clouds) 
and the spirit of clouds (wind). 3 

How close the connection is between man and nature accord- 
ing to this Asiatic conception appears also in Persian literature 
{Buniahhhy 30) in which the resurrection is described in the 
following words: "At that time the bones will be demanded 
back from the earth, the blood from water, the hair from 
plants, and life from fire, all these having been at the time of 
creation ordered to return to their respective sources after 

But this relation of man with nature appears also from a 
contrary conception, according to which the macrocosmos itself 
is born of man, the microcosmos. According to a tale of the 
Kalmucks the world was formed from the body of Manza- 
shiri (==the Buddhist Bodhisattva Manjucri), the trees from 
his blood-vessels, fire from the warmth of his interior organs, 
earth from his body, iron from his bones, water from his blood, 
grass from his hair, the sun and the moon from his eyes, 
the seven planets from his teeth, and the other stars from his 
back.* In the same way is the cosmos formed when the Chinese 
demiurge Pan-ku expires: from his spirit is born the wind, 
from his voice the thunder, from his left eye the sun and his 
right eye the moon, from his blood the rivers, from his hairs 
the plants, from his saliva the rain, and from his vermin man- 
kind." Already the Vedic literature of India (Rgveda, X. 90) 
tells how the world was formed from the body of a human- 
shaped primordial being, Purusa. The Manicheans have a 
similar tale, 6 and even far in Europe, in Scandinavia, we find 
a variant of it. In the Edda of Snorri it is told how the sons 
of Bor slew the giant Ymir, and of his flesh created the earth, 
of his blood the water, of his bones the stones and rocks, of 
his skull the sky, of his brains the clouds, and of his eyebrows 
the circle surrounding Midgard. Doubtless all the above 
stories have some connection with each other and have not 
arisen separately. 


In the tales of the Central and North Asian peoples the 
materials of which the first man's body was made, vary. The 
most common conception among the Buriats is that the flesh was 
made of red clay, the bones of stone, and the blood of water/ 
The Altaic peoples believe that bones were created from reeds 
and the rest of the body from clay. 8 The North-West Siberian 
peoples, like the Voguls, relate how God " took willow-twigs, 
bound them into skeletons, covered them with a layer of clay, 
set them before him and blew into them." In other tales 
they tell how God created man and animals from earth and 
snow. 9 The Yenisei Ostiaks relate how God rubbed a piece of 
earth in each hand for a long time and at last threw them 
away. The piece thrown by the right hand became a man, that 
from the left hand, a woman. 10 

Although some Siberian peoples seem to have partly shaped 
their own creation beliefs, we can in nowise decide from 
this that the idea of creation itself was their own. The tales 
themselves, to which these original fancies are connected 
as separate details, are the best proof of their being of foreign 

As in the stories about the origin of the earth, so also in tales 
telling of the creation of man we find two antagonistic beings, 
God and the devil, the latter in some way marring the work of 
the former. In most instances the devil succeeds in approach- 
ing man before God has had time to give him life. The dog, 
whom God sets to watch over man, has a very, important part 
in these tales. 

Among the Black Tatars there is the following story: When 
the great Pajana formed the first people from a piece of earth, 
he could not give them life. He was therefore compelled to 
go to Heaven to Kudai to seek a life-giving spirit for them. 
When going he left a dog to guard the people. While he was 
away the devil Erlik arrived and said to the yet naked dog: 
"Thou hast no fur-covering, I will give thee golden hairs, 
give thou to me those soulless people." The dog was delighted 


with Erlik's proposal and gave the people whom he was to 
guard into the keeping of the devil. Having thus come near 
the people the devil defiled them by spitting on them, but 
fled when he saw Kudai approaching to give them life. When 
God saw that the devil had befouled the bodies of the people 
and that it was impossible to make them clean again he turned 
them inside out. From that time the interior of man is full 
of filth and spittle. 11 

A similar explanation of the origin of the filth inside man is 
given by a Yakut tale. When God had created the world he 
built a great stone house in which he placed seven stone images 
and " Man " to guard them. Day by day the devil begged 
for entrance into the house, endeavouring to bribe the guardian 
without success, until he promised " Man " an indestructible 
garment, which he need never take off. He was then allowed 
to approach the images and to soil them with his evacuations. 
When God came to look at his images and saw what the devil 
had done in his absence he grew angry, reproached the 
guardian, and fulfilled his wish by changing him into a dog. 
The images he turned inside out and blew a spirit into them. 
For that reason the interior of man is full of filth. 12 

Corresponding tales are met with among the Volga Finns, 
the Cheremiss, Votiaks and Mordvins. The purport of these 
tales also is to explain why the interior of God-created man is 
unclean. The Mordvin tale tells in addition that internal 
diseases are caused by the spittle of the devil." Certain 
diseases, a cough in particular, are given a similar origin in 
Russian tales. In the Samoyed tale which does not contain 
the turning inside out of man, serious eruptions, pox, and 
gatherings are the result of the devil's saliva. In this tale 
also appears a dog, naked as man himself, on whose body 
the devil causes hair to grow by, stroking it. 14 

In another cycle of tales, in which the devil soils the people 
whom God had created by spitting on them, these people had 
originally some covering, hair or nail-matter. 


The Buriats of the Balagan District tell how three creators, 
Shibegeni-Burkhan, Madari-Burkhan, and Esege-Burkhan 
made the first pair of human beings, using red clay for the 
flesh, stone for bones and water for blood. Doubtful as to 
which of them should procure a spirit for these as yet soulless 
beings, they determined to find out by placing a torch and a 
vessel of water before each and going to sleep beside them. 
The one whose torch took fire during the night and in whose 
water- vessel a plant appeared should have the honour of giving 
life to man and of being his tutelary genius. Shibegeni- 
Burkhan awoke in the night before the others and seeing that 
the burning torch and the plant were in front of Madari- 
Burkhan he stealthily lighted his own candle, putting out that 
of the other, and removed the plant into his own vessel. In 
the morning, when the Burkhans awoke and saw that the fire 
and the plant had appeared before Shibegeni-Burkhan they 
decided that fate had determined him to be the life-giver 
and the guardian of man. But Madari-Burkhan suspected 
Shibegeni-Burkhan of having acted deceitfully, and said: 
" Thou hast stolen the fire and the plant from me, therefore 
the people thou givest life to will ever steal from one another 
and quarrel together." " 

This story, a product of Buddhism, which evidently en- 
deavours to explain the origin of quarrelling and robbery in 
the world, is in itself a complete tale, although in this Buriat 
tale it appears only as a preface to another story. The tale 
tells further how Madari-Burkhan and Esege-Burkhan de- 
parted to heaven, leaving these earth-created beings, which at 
that time were covered with hairs, in the keeping of Shibegeni- 
Burkhan. When the latter also had to visit heaven to bring 
a spirit for man, he set a dog, which had then no hair, to guard 
the sleeping people. While he was away the devil Shiktur 
bribed the dog with a promise of hair resembling that of 
mortals, and was allowed to defile them by spitting on them. 
When Shibegeni-Burkhan came down from heaven and saw 


that the devil had succeeded in soiling the bodies of the people, 
he became angry and cursed the dog on whose body he saw the 
devil's hair-covering, saying: " Thou shalt ever suffer hunger, 
gnaw cold bones and nourish thyself with remains from man's 
repasts, and man shall beat thee." Then Shibegeni-Burkhan 
cleaned the peoples' bodies of the hairs which the devil had 
soiled, and they became naked except in those parts which the 
devil's saliva had not touched, such as the head, which they 
in sleeping had happened to cover with their hands. 16 

A corresponding tale of the Buriats of Alarsk, in which we 
do not meet with the preface mentioned above, also tells how 
Burkhan created a hair-covered man out of various materials, 
set the dog to guard him and went to heaven to fetch a spirit for 
him, and how the wicked Sholmo, having deceived the dog, de- 
prived man of his hair, leaving only a remnant in some parts 
of the body. The tale tells at its close that had the devil never 
succeeded in touching man, man would never have known 
sickness or death." In a tale recorded among the Voguls of 
the Losva, the covering of the first man was nail-matter or 
horn-matter. But while God was absent, seeking a spirit for 
man, the devil (Kul-oter) managed to spoil his body so that 
the nail-matter remained only on the ends of his fingers and 
toes. The surface of the body having thus become tender man 
was an easy prey for sickness and death. 1 " 

In this form the tale is known also to the Mordvins. By 
giving the dog a hair-covering the devil secures the opportunity 
of spoiling the first horn-covered man so that only the ends 
of the fingers and toes keep their coverings. 1 * 

This original hair-covering or horn-covering of the human 
body is met with even in other tales which remind one of the 
Biblical story of the fall of man. Seeing that the last men- 
tioned covering is comparatively rare in creation tales, but in 
paradise-stories quite common, we may conclude that it has been 
taken from the latter into the former. 

In some Central Asian creation tales in which the dog also 


appears, the devil, during God's absence, blows a spirit into 
the man whom God has created. 

The following Altaic tale relates that Olgen created the 
first man, using earth for flesh and stone for bones, and made 
a woman of the man's rib. But he had no spirit to give them 
and was forced to go in search of one. On starting he created 
a hairless dog to guard the pair. This time the dog received 
its hair-covering by eating the excrement of the devil. The 
latter then blew a spirit into the people with a reed, which he 
inserted in the rectum of the sleeping bodies. When Olgen 
returned and saw his people alive he was doubtful as to what 
he should do, whether to create new human beings or not. 
While he was considering, the frog came up to him and said: 
"Why shouldest thou destroy these beings. Let them exist 
for themselves. Who dies, let him die; who lives, let him 
live." And so Olgen let the people live. 20 

In another tale two creators, Otshirvani and Chagan- 
Shukuty, built together a human body. The latter said to the 
former: "We have created a man, we must yet find him a 
spirit to make him alive." Otshirvani remarked that the devil 
might steal the body in their absence, and therefore they de- 
cided to set a naked dog to guard it. While they were away the 
devil arrived, bribed the dog by promising him hair, and light- 
ing some flax blew the smoke into man's nostrils. Then man 
arose and began to walk. To their surprise the gods on re- 
turning saw that man had already begun to live." 

We find thus that in Central and Northern Asia two cycles 
of tales are known, in one of which the devil soils the human 
body which God has created, while in the other the devil gives 
life to a God-created man. The purpose of both these cycles 
of tales is to explain the unexpected deficiencies in a being 
of God's creation. The former tales represent perhaps a more 
materialistic conception, dwelling as they do on the weaknesses 
of the human body, and chiefly on the filth inside it and the 
diseases caused by this, although in certain East European 


variants wicked, sinful tendencies also are the result of the 
devil's touch. The latter cycle of tales endeavours to explain 
man's mental deficiencies. This appears even from the fol- 
lowing Altaic story, in which, however, only the capricious 
character of woman is under consideration. 

When Olgen had created the earth he made seven masculine 
beings upon it and seven trees, one tree for each man. After 
that he created yet an eighth man named Maidere and a tree 
" upon the golden mountain." Having created these beings 
God left them to their own resources and departed. After 
seven years he returned and saw that each tree had grown seven 
branches, one branch each year, but the number of men had 
not increased. God said; "What is the meaning of this? 
The trees bring forth new branches but the number of men 
does not increase?" Then Maidere replied: "How could 
they increase when there is none able to procreate? " God 
now gave Maidere the power to rule freely over men and to 
take care that they increased, and so Maidere stepped down 
from the golden mountain, went to the men and began to create 
a woman, just as Olgen had created him. On the third day, 
when he had finished, the woman was ready, but without a 
spirit, so Maidere went out to meet Olgen and left the dog 
to guard the being he had made. The wicked Erlik, by brib- 
ing the dog, succeeded in approaching the woman. He blew at 
once into her nostrils with a seven-toned flute and played into 
her ear with a nine-stringed instrument, woman thus receiving 
a spirit and an intellect. But for this reason woman has seven 
tempers and nine moods. When Maidere hurried back, he 
saw the living woman and said to the dog: " Why didst thou 
let Erlik come so near, how did he deceive thee ? " The dog 
replied: "Erlik promised me a fur-coat which should last 
unto my death and be neither hot in summer nor cold in 
winter." Then Maidere said to him: " The garment promised 
thee shall be a hairy covering which shall grow fast on to thy 
body." At the same time he cursed the dog, prophesying that 


people should always treat him ill, that he should be compelled 
to live under the sky, etc. 22 

Thus, even in this tale, the originally naked dog has an 
important part. The existence of this common feature in all 
the creation tales gives us reason to assume that they all have 
a common root, in whatever variants they may appear. To 
this common root both the devil as spoiler of the people whom 
God had created, and the dog which guards them, have be- 
longed. The strictly dualistic conception of this original root, 
a conception which appears early in the religion of the Iranians, 
where also the dog, that originally sacred animal, the expeller 
of evil beings, and the creation of Ahura Mazda, had a very 
important place, raises the assumption that our tale, as Dahn- 
hardt has indicated, is the outcome of an Iranian mental at- 
mosphere, originating probably among the Syrian Christians, 
and from them wandering both to Eastern Europe and to 
Central and North Asia. The access into Western Europe 
for this, as for later oriental-syncretistic legends, was more 

Our tale about the seven men continues by relating how 
Maidere inquires of these, which of them will take the woman 
to whom the devil has given life for his partner. Three of 
them at once refuse absolutely and escape to the golden moun- 
tain where they become assistant spirits to God, or Burkhans. 
The other four remain on the earth, and Olgen takes two ribs 
from each side of one of them, Targyn-nama, and of them 
makes him a wife." 

An earlier mentioned Yakut tale also tells of the seven first 
men whom the devil marred before God had given them life. 
This tale also has a continuation in which the numbers three 
and four are specially noticeable. It tells how God gave a 
wife to four only, wherefore the other three were dissatisfied. 
They complained to God and, as he took no notice, adultery 
came into the world. These three got wives in the end when 
the daughters of the first four women grew up. One of the 



daughters, however, could find no husband and became there- 
fore a prostitute. 

More ancient than the fancies in these creation tales of the 
origin of man's deficiencies are those tales in which man first 
succumbs to evil suggestions after God has given him life. 


IN CONNECTION with the creation myths we have 
touched on many tales, in which already at his creation, 
man was corrupted by the devil and, therefore, never attained 
the perfection which God had intended for him. In the fol- 
lowing we shall see how man, after his creation by God, has 
of his own accord drawn disaster on himself. 

In most of the tales of this series, man was originally en- 
dowed with a special covering, which protected him from cold, 
moisture, wind and other matters liable to affect his health. 
Some of tht tales provide him with a coat of fur, others with 
a nail-substance or horn covering. With the eating of the 
forbidden fruit man loses his natural, protective covering. 
Very interesting is the following Altaic tale: 
A lonely tree grew without branches. God saw it and said: 
"A single, branchless tree is not pleasant to look upon, let 
nine branches grow on it." The nine branches grew on the 
tree. God continued : " Let nine human beings appear under 
the nine branches} from the nine human beings nine races." 
Further on in this tale only two people are spoken of, man and 
wife, who were at first covered with fur. The name of the 
man was Torongoi and of the wife Edji (" Mother "). God 
said to these people: "Do not eat of the fruit of the four 
branches growing towards the sunset, but eat of the five towards 
the sunrise." And God placed a dog under the tree as its 
guardian, saying: " If the devil comes, seize him." In addi- 
tion he stationed the snake there, saying to it: " If the devil 
comes, bite him." Further, he said to both dog and snake: 
" If man comes to eat of the fruit towards the sunrise, let him 


approach the tree, but if he wishes to eat of the fruit of the 
forbidden branches, do not let him come near." Having said 
which God returned to Heaven. 

The devil then arrived at the tree, where he saw the snake, 
which had just happened to fall asleep. He crept cunningly 
into the snake and with its help climbed the tree, from where 
he tempted first the woman and then, through her agency, the 
man, to eat of the fruit of the forbidden branches. Having 
eaten, the couple see to their astonishment how the hair begins 
to fall from their bodies. Ashamed, they hide frightened 
behind the tree. 

When God came on to the earth and saw what had happened 
in his absence, he said to the man: " How is it with thee? " 
The man replied : " The woman has pushed into my mouth 
the forbidden fruit." God turned admonishingly to the 
woman: " Why hast thou done this? " The woman answered: 
"The snake tempted me to eat." God said to the snake: 
"Snake, what hast thou done?" It replied: "Not I, but 
the devil who had crept into me tempted her." God said: 
"How did the devil creep into thee? " The snake replied: 
" As I slept, the devil arrived." God turned then to the dog, 
saying : " How was it with thee, why didst thou not drive 
away the devil? " The dog answered: " Mine eyes saw him 
not." x 

The introduction to this tale, in which nine people are men- 
tioned, mystically connected with the nine branches of the 
tree, resembles greatly an earlier related tale of seven trees 
and seven men. In both tales these trees were at first branch- 
less. The later tale goes on to relate that the first woman gave 
birth to nine sons and nine daughters, destined afterwards to 
become the ancestors of nine races. A few North Siberian tales 
speak of the seven ancestors of the human race. 2 The numbers 
seven and nine would seem, therefore, to have alternated in 
these tales. 

In the Central Asian tales, our attention is drawn to the 


fact that as the guardians of the forbidden fruit both the 
snake and the dog are mentioned. The latter, which is no 
longer mentioned in the punishments following on the dis- 
obedience, would seem to have been introduced only tem- 
porarily into this tale from the earlier related creation-tales. 

Otherwise, the tale is very similar to the ancient Semitic 
story of the fall as known to us from the Bible. Only in 
details does it differ from the latter. In the paradise of the 
Bible, two trees are mentioned, the tree of life and the tree 
of knowledge of good and evil, both growing in the centre 
of paradise, the fruit of the latter being forbidden to man. 
The Central Asian tale mentions only one tree, the fruit of 
the five eastward branches of which were intended as nourish- 
ment for man, but the fruit of the four westward-growing 
branches of which was fraught with misfortune. This tree 
was at the same time the tree of life and death $ in the Bible 
story life and death were represented by separate trees. The 
latter differs also from the former m the fact that it attempts 
to explain the origin of death spiritually, as a consequence 
of disobedience or the fall. The Central Asian tale would 
seem to represent a more primitive state by connecting the 
misfortune with the fruit itself. Starting from this, we may 
perhaps assume that the original form of the so-called story 
of the fall has come into being merely to explain how man, 
believed to have originally been created for eternity, could 
die. Death was thus not originally regarded in the light of 
a punishment, but as the natural consequence of eating of the 
fateful fruit, as, having lost its original covering, the power 
of resistance of the human body declined and diseases fol- 
lowed. Generally, primitive peoples tell how sickness and 
death, non-existent in the beginning, have since become the 
scourge of mankind. 

The idea of an original covering of hair on the human 
body is widely-spread in Central and Northern Asia. The 
Voguls relate that in the beginning God created human beings 


covered altogether with hair, and that they were allowed to 
move everywhere and eat of everything but the "forest- 
spirit-berry" {Vaccinium uliginosum, growing in swamps). 
God then went off to Heaven, but returning to look at his 
creatures, he had great difficulty in finding these at all. In 
the end God found them hidden beneath some bushes. When 
they crept out at God's command, he saw that the human 
beings whom he had created had lost their covering of hair 
and shivered naked before him. This had come about by their 
eating of the fateful berries, against the express command of 
God, and thus becoming a prey to cold and moisture. 8 

In this tale of the Vbguls, the mighty and beautiful tree 
of paradise of the ancient Semitic race has been transformed 
to a modest plant growing in the barren unfruitful north. 

Besides the covering of hair, we have in the creation-tales 
met with another protective covering of the human body, i.e., 
the horn-covering, lost so completely by mortals that the only 
reminder of this primitive state is the substance of which 
our finger-nails and toe-nails are made. 

This form of the tale, common also in Eastern Europe, 
appears already in old Jewish and Arabian tales, in which it 
is related how the bodies of Adam and Eve in paradise were 
covered with a horny substance so that they did not need 
clothes. Not until the fall did they, with the exception of 
the finger-nails and toe-nails, lose their covering.* 

The idea of the hair-covering of the first human beings is 
also probably from Nearer Asia. It is related in an Arabian 
tale, how, on the diamond mountain of paradise, Adam and 
Eve had long hair reaching to the ground, protecting the 
whole body, and how this fell off when they had eaten of the 
forbidden fruit, so that their unprotected bodies darkened in 
the sun. The Bible story also obviously presupposes the exist- 
ence of some covering, as it is expressly stated that when the 
first people had eaten of the forbidden fruit they saw them- 
selves to be naked and in need of some garment. 


The Astrachan Kalmucks relate further that during the 
time of paradise the first people were some kind of illuminated 
beings. At this time there was neither sun nor moon, these 
being unnecessary, as human beings then lighted up their 
surroundings themselves. The eating of the fruit extin- 
guished their light altogether, all nature became dark, and 
God was obliged to give mankind the sun and the moon. 6 
This belief is also founded on Nearer Asian tales. 

Another consequence of the fall, according to the Kal- 
mucks, was the shortening of the age of man and a reduction 
in his size. In the beginning men had been immortal or 
could at least live through a world-epoch, eighty thousand 
years, but gradually their age decreased, one year each cen- 
tury, so that their present average age is only sixty. This 
shortening will continue with the growth of sin until people 
will live to be only ten years of age. At the same time, after 
having originally been giants, they will decline to the length 
of a thumb. Then the messenger of the Bodhisattva Maidere 
and his apparition Berde-Gabat will arrive on the earth, and 
begin to better the state of men, increasing their age and size, 
until they have again attained their former age." 

With these Lamaistic beliefs may be compared the ideas of 
the modern Jews, reflected in the following words taken from 
a collection of their tales: "When Adam was created, his 
enormous volume filled all the earth, but when he fell into 
sin, he became very small." Concerning the shortening of 
the age of man we find comments in the Bible itself. 


A QUESTION of special interest to the Northern Siberian 
peoples is the origin of the myriads of mosquitoes, 
which during the light summer of the north are an unbearable 
plague for both men and animals. 

The Yenisei Ostiaks declare that a cannibalistic demon 
woman, Khosadam, living In the farthest north, created the 
mosquitoes. 1 Many other Siberian peoples have a special 
myth to explain their origin. 

The Ostiak Samoyeds tell of a hero named Itje, whose 
parents had been devoured by a man-eating giant named 
Piinegusse. He himself succeeded in escaping and making his 
way to a desert, where he was brought up by his relations. 
When he had grown to be a strong and heroic youth, he 
decided to free his people from this demon from the north. 
He succeeded in killing it, but the demon kept on being born 
again. He resolved therefore to burn up the carcase of the 
man-eater, but even in the fire the demon continued to exist. 
Its jaws ground against each other when the fire had burnt 
out, and its voice cried out that even when burnt up it would 
continue to plague mankind. The wind would scatter its 
ashes into the air, whence they would everywhere suck the 
blood of men. From these ashes the innumerable mosquitoes 
of Siberia arise each summer. 2 

In a Samoyed variant a small black bird is born of the 
flesh of Piinegusse. This bird is called " a bit of Ptinegusse's 

Among the Ostiaks of the river Vach this story runs briefly 
as follows: A great bird once caught a great pike and gave 
it to its sister to cook. The latter prepared instead a meal 


of dog's offal, which so enraged the bird that it flew away 
until at last it came to the man-eater. Finding the hut empty, 
the bird ate its fill out of a large kettle of fat, but was 
caught by the man-eater. To save its own life the bird prom- 
ised its sister in marriage to the giant and was set free. It 
then hurried home and to save its sister, fastened the door 
so that only a small hole was left. The man-eater, coming 
for his bride, tried to get through this hole, but stuck fast 
there. The bird then killed him with a great knife and set 
fire to the house. The body of the man-eater was burnt to 
ashes, but here also the spirit spoke, foretelling that its ashes 
would each summer be born anew as mosquitoes and would 
continue to live on the flesh of men.* 

Corresponding myths, apparently of Indian origin, are to 
be found among the Altai Tatars. The evil Erlik created a 
water-giant named Andalma-Muus, who put out his long 
tongue to seize men, whom he then swallowed. Three of 
Ulgen's heroes, Mandyshire, Tyurun-Muzykay, and Maidere, 
decided to kill this demon. Tyurun-Muzykay declared him- 
self to be the strongest giant-killer. Having said this, he 
came down from heaven, was given birth to by, a virgin, and 
became a man. While he was still quite young he was run- 
ning about once on the sea-shore when he saw the giant stick 
out his long tongue to seize him and drag him into the depths. 
The young hero, however, was not helpless in this danger, 
but grasped the demon's tongue and pulled so mightily that 
the earth was in danger of sinking under the water. To 
avoid this the hero drank so much of the sea that the water 
sank until he could see the feet of the demon. The youth 
then grasped his feet, pulled the giant out of the sea and 
beat him against the rocks so that his blood squirted out 
and his entrails were scattered over the rocks. From this 
originates the mixed colouring of rocks. After this, the hero 
cut the body into little pieces, out of which certain insects, 
including also mosquitoes, were born. 6 


According to a Yakut cannibal myth, the man-eating giant 
was burnt up, and from the fragments of his bones all kinds 
of destructive insects, and also frogs and snails were born.* 
Similarly, in Mongol tales it is related how a hero named 
Karaty-Khan vanquishes a demon, grinds it into fragments 
and throws these into the air, thus giving birth to mosquitoes 
and other insects/ 

Far away to the east, among the Goldes, tales of a similar 
character are met with. These tell of two sisters who lived 
in the same hut. While one of them was away, the man- 
eater came to the other, enticed her from her hiding-place and 
tricked her into putting out her tongue, which the man-eater 
at once plucked out of her mouth. When the other sister 
came home, she found out what had happened in her absence 
and decided to avenge her sister's death. She sought a long 
time for the home of the man-eater, and at last she found 
four store-houses, of which one was full of human hands, 
another of human feet, a third of heads, and in the fourth 
numerous human tongues hung from the roof. Among these 
she discovered the still warm tongue of her sister. She 
wrapped this in a clean cloth and went on, until, in the depths 
of the forest, she found the man-eater's dwelling hidden 
away. The demon was away, but his sister, who was a good 
person, was at home and promised to help in killing him. 
In the evening he came home, bringing a human body with 
him and devouring this for supper, after which he went to 
sleep. The women now came forward and broke the demon 
into pieces with hammers, scattering the pieces in all direc- 
tions. While doing so, they said: " Man-eater, thou fedst 
thyself on human flesh, may the pieces of thy flesh and thy 
bones change into small insects, which like thee shall eat 
human blood. Of the smallest fragments may gnats be born, 
of those a little larger mosquitoes, and of the largest flies, 
beetles, etc." Immediately great clouds of insects arose, which 
spread over the earth.* 


The Goldes have still another tale related to this. A 
brother and sister lived in a hut in peace. Once when the 
brother came home from the forest, he noticed that his sister 
had altered considerably. He began to suspect that some one 
kept company with her. For this reason, he strewed ashes 
outside the hut when setting off again on a hunting-trip. 
Returning the next morning, he was astounded to see the 
foot-prints of a tiger in the ashes. He hid his suspicions, 
however, until it became apparent that his sister was enceinte. 
Then he decided to thrust a knife into her breast as she lay 
murmuring shaman songs to herself. While singing she said: 
" I have lived with the tiger, he is my husband, his spirit 
is in me; thou canst not kill me, but if thou wilt cut off my 
little finger, I shall die." The brother cut off his sister's 
little finger and when she was dead, built a large log-fire and 
threw the body on to it. While the body was burning, instead 
of sparks, all kinds of evil spirits in the form of birds and 
insects flew out of the fire. 9 

Cannibal myths of this description, which are to be found 
also among the Tungus, and are extremely characteristic of 
the more northern peoples of Siberia, have been noted down 
also on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. As in Siberia, 
North American Indian myths tell of the birth of blood-suck- 
ing insects from the ashes of a man-eater. 10 It seems prob- 
able, therefore, that these primitive tales have a common 


AS FAR back as the thirteenth century, Piano Carpini 
relates in his Historia Mongolorum that " The Mongols 
believe in one God, whom they regard as the creator of all 
things visible and invisible.*' Rubruquis also remarks that 
the Mongols acknowledge the existence of one God, but 
that despite this they prepare idols for themselves. Similarly, 
the Arabian historians mention the " one " God of the Mon- 
gols, whom, according to a decree of Jenghiz Khan, all the 
subjects of the Great Khan had to honour and worship. 

We might perhaps assume the above reports of " one " 
God to have been coloured in some way or other, but on 
closer acquaintance with the beliefs of the Central Asian 
peoples, we find that the Heaven god has actually had an 
exceptional position among them. These reports are, further, 
of such late date, that alien, and, more particularly, Persian 
currents of civilization have long before their time exercised 
a considerable influence on them. As a relic of Mazdaism 
we find in the folk-lore of both the Mongols and the Tatars 
the name of Ahura-Mazda (Mongol Hormusdaj Altaic 
Tatar Khurbystan). It is also a well-known fact that Mani- 
cheism and Nestorianism had by then spread their doctrines 
into this territory ; the wife of Jenghiz Khan himself would 
seem to have been a Nestorian Christian. Matters being thus, 
we have no reason to doubt these old reports} they are trust- 
worthy at least regarding the time of which they speak. An- 
other question is whether they may be regarded as expressing 
the oldest beliefs of the Central Asian peoples concerning 
the god of Heaven. 


A word of their own language, used by the Mongols as 
a name for their " one " god, is Tengri, a name used for the 
Heaven god in many other Altaic languages (Kalmuck Tengri, 
Buriat Tengeri, Tatar Tangere, Yakut and Dolgan Tangara, 
Chuvash Tura) . This word meant originally, " Heaven." 
Among the Chuvash the meaning " Heaven " for Tura seems 
to have become extinct, and among the Yakuts also, Tangara 
appears only, in folk-lore as meaning " the sky." Having 
acquired the meaning of a god living in Heaven, this word 
began to be used in many languages for " god " in general 
(= Latin deus). The Yakuts use it when speaking of their 
idols, i.e., wood, stone or birch-bark Tangara. The disap- 
pearing significance of the word, a " sky " appreciable by the 
senses, shows plainly, that in the beginning the " Heaven god " 
of the peoples related to the Turks was the animated sky 
itself with its wonderful, mystical powers. At this stage, 
when as yet no humanlike or otherwise specially shaped being 
is thought of, with the sky merely as his dwelling-place, the 
heavens and the Heaven god do not require separate names 
as they did later. An irrefutable proof of this original point 
of view is the old title given by the Mongols to the Heaven 
god when worshipping him: "Blue Tengri." 

Examples of the deification of the heavens themselves are 
met with among the other surrounding peoples. Herodotus 
already tells how the ancient Persians worshipped as their 
god (Zeus) " the whole area of the sky." The name Tien 
of the Chinese Heaven god meant originally " the sky." The 
Finnish races also used the word " sky " when speaking of 
their Heaven gods without any resulting confusion of thought. 
Similar examples are offered by the most northern peoples 
of Asia, the Samoyeds and the Yenisei Ostiaks. 

In Mongolian folk-lore two expressions are met with: 
" Blue Tengri " and " Eternal Tengri," which, according to 
Banzarov, denote two different stages of development. The 
most common name, "Blue Tengri," for the power behind 


all the different phenomena of the sky, which gives to the 
earth fruitfulness and productivity, cannot, according to this 
investigator, apply to a spiritual being} but the " Eternal 
Tengri " who rules the world and decrees the fates of peoples 
and individuals, does seem to be a spiritual entity. 1 We can- 
not on our part, however, discern any such sharp division in 
the use of these qualifying terms, both being often used 

In the beliefs of the Mongols the determining activities 
of the sky are extremely, conspicuous. They speak frequently 
of the " Fate " (Dzajaga) of the heavens. In the Chronicle 
of Ssanang Ssetsen it is said that Jenghiz Khan, " that lion 
among men," appeared on the earth through " the Providence 
(Fate) of the blue, eternal sky.'* But not only rulers and 
princes, " sons of Heaven " in a special meaning, but also 
ordinary mortals were born into the world through the agency 
of the same " Providence." Everything that happens was 
believed to have been decreed by the sky. When the Mongol 
princes published their laws, they added to their authorization 
the words: "By the Providence of the eternal sky," in the 
same way as Christian monarchs exercise their power " by the 
grace of God." 

As this Providence belief is not met with among the more 
northern peoples of the Altaic race, at least not in any such 
developed form, our attention is drawn to the Indo-Iranians, 
the proximity of whom to the Mongols cannot but have left 
some trace. The Dzajaga idea of the Mongols corresponds 
in fact with the Rita of the ancient Vedic poems and the Asha 
of the Avesta, by which a power watching over the world was 
meant. This Providence does not seem to have been per- 
sonified, neither were sacrifices offered up to it in the begin- 
ning. The relations of men towards it may be compared with 
those of the Greeks of Homer's time towards Moira, under 
whose laws even the gods existed. But it is to be noted that 
this Providence or Fate, the decrees of which were unrecall- 


able, was always connected with the sky, according to the 
ideas of the Central Asian peoples. In a similar way Fate 
was regarded by the Chinese, who call Fate Tien-ming (" the 
sky-order ") being in this respect entirely of the same opinion 
as the Mongols. Both these peoples see in the complete sub- 
ordination of Heaven to its own laws an example for all earthly 

In the list of gods of the Chuvash living in Russia, a spirit 
named Kaba (" Fate," " Providence ") corresponds to the 
Dzajaga of the Mongols; from the former the Cheremiss 
have taken it as Kava-Jumo and the Votiaks as Kaba-Immar, 
and unaware of its origin, sacrifice nowadays to it as to a 
Heaven god. Among the Eastern Cheremiss even sacred 
groves (Kawalan pumas) were consecrated to Fate. 2 

Obviously, Dzajaga, Kaba, Rita, Asha, Tien-ming and 
Moira, called Fatum by the Romans, are closely related to 
one another in their meaning. The question arises, therefore, 
as to whether this fatalistic belief is a general product of the 
human intellect, born among each of the separate peoples, 
or whether we have here a result of the so-called " migration 
theory." The dependence of fate on the heavenly rules pre- 
supposes so naturally a certain stage of development that we 
cannot avoid turning our glance to the cosmology of the 
ancient Babylonians. Nowhere else, in this early period, do 
we meet with such admiration of the constant order of the 
sky and such blind belief in its mechanically working powers, 
the latter affecting all life down to the smallest details. Here 
the sky has truly been " a Book of Fate " in which the wise 
can read future events. For this reason it is more than 
probable that just this star fatalism of the Babylonians has 
been the model and the source of the Providence beliefs of 
all the above mentioned peoples. 

As the fate of everything is thus dependent on the sky, 
it is natural that one should say, like the Mongols: " The sky 
decrees " or " the sky commands." In the same way as the 


Vedic poems speak of the " director of Rita," so the ruler of 
Providence, Dzajagatsi (dzaja =" to decree," "allow," 
" order," or " command "), appears simultaneously with 
Dzajaga in the beliefs of the Mongols, meaning the god of 
Heaven. The qualifying attribute of the sky is often 
" Dzajagatsi Tengri." In the inscriptions of Orkhon, where 
the " heavens " are mentioned also as the god of armies, we 
meet with the word dzaja with the meaning of "to com- 
mand ": " The sky commanded our armies in the war and 
we were victorious." 

The Dzajagatsi of the Mongols has a counterpart in the 
Jajutsi of the Altaic race, the Dzajan of the Minusinsk Tatars, 
and the Buriat Zajan (Mongol dzaja = Altaic Tatar jaja 
= Buriat zaja). The Buriats by Khudinsk call the Over- 
god of the heavens Zajan-Sagan-Tengeri (sagan, "white"). 
Another qualification of the Heaven god with the same mean- 
ing is the Tatar Bujuruktsi (bujur, " to decree," or " order "), 
loaned also by the Ugrians (Ostyak Pairekse). The Voguls 
append to the name of their god in their own language, 
" Num-Torem-paireks." The same word is further met with 
in the god-name of the Chuvash, Purdan-Tura, and in that of 
the Cheremiss, Puirso-Jumo (Cheremiss fujurem = Chuvash 
fur- = Kazan Tatar bojor-) . 

We see thus how this idea o'f a Fate bound up with the 
heavens is common to all the Turk-related peoples. In addi- 
tion to all the more fateful occasions of life, birth in especial 
is dependent on the providence of Heaven. Dzajagatsi, 
Jajutsi, Bujuruktsi, etc., are often spoken of as the decreers 
of birth, and at the same time as a kind of gods of birth. 
Sometimes some other than the actual Heaven god is given 
this title. The Altai Tatars, who speak of several storeys in 
the heavens, believe Jajutsi to live in the fifth of these.* 
Here he is thus a being apart from the Over-god. Each 
mortal having his own fate, each has been given a special 
ruler of fate, which follows him faithfully from the moment 


of birth. The Mongols call this spirit, which does not desert 
man as long as he is in favour with the heavens, Dzol- (" hap- 
piness ") Dzajagatii.* It is said to watch over the health of 
its ward, his property and his prosperity in general, protecting 
him at the same time from all dangers. Similarly, each 
mortal has, according to the Altai Tatars, his own Jajutsi, 
which, having received orders from above, brings down life- 
force from the wonderful " lake of milk M in the third storey 
of Heaven, then brings the embryo alive into the world, and 
follows the man thus born from his infancy onward as a kind 
of good spirit. Besides this, each mortal is supposed to have a 
lifelong evil companion, Kormos, which from his birth tries 
to harm him. The former, which writes down the good deeds 
done in life, is said to be on man's right shoulder, the latter, 
which notes down his evil deeds, at his left. These Jajutsi, 
like the blessed dead, live in the lands of paradise in the third 
storey of Heaven." It is hardly necessary to point out that 
these beliefs in good and bad angels reached the Tatars from 
the Iranians. 

The belief that each mortal has a special arbiter of his fate 
in Heaven, seems to be closely related to the idea that each 
mortal has his own star in the sky. The appearance of a new 
star signifies birth, the w falling " of a star, death. When the 
Chuvash see a shooting-star they shout at once: " My star is 
still up above! " * Several North Siberian peoples also, e.g., 
the Tungus, speak of the stars of each mortal. 7 

Piano Carpini says that the Heaven god, according to the 
Mongols, is also the "avenger." This punishing activity of 
Heaven is closely related to its " providence " or " decreeing." 
When once Heaven has decreed anything, it is not good for 
men to show resistance. The Mongols believe that Heaven 
" sees " everything, and that therefore no one can conceal his 
actions from it. In taking an oath, the Mongols say: " May 
Heaven know! " or " May Heaven judge! " The revenge of 
the heavens has not, however, been regarded as something 


occurring beyond the grave, but is believed to f ; U on the 
guilty already in this life. In its judgments Heave.- is com- 
pletely neutral, punishing princes as effectually as peasants. 
Punishment is believed to follow crime as a kind of inner 
necessity. 8 

Without being in any way inconstant the sky can sometimes 
make troublesome demonstrations, reflecting in its own way 
disturbances on the earth. Neither were the ancient Baby- 
lonians unfailingly logical in their conception of the unwaver- 
ing laws of Heaven, but saw at times " signs " in the sky, 
which were interpreted as showing the dissatisfaction of the 
gods. Heavenly demonstrations of this description were, ac- 
cording to the Mongols, comets, meteors, years of famine, 
floods, etc., at the threatening of which rulers and subjects had 
to review their plans and intentions and humbly submit to the 
will of the " eternal sky." 

The Chronicles containing the history of the Mongols men- 
tion many illuminative examples. It is related in them how 
Mogan-Khan (during the Tukiu dynasty) having held am- 
bassadors from China for a long time in captivity, freed them 
and made peace with their ruler after Heaven had by long 
storms shown its dissatisfaction at the tyrannous acts of the 
Khan. In the fifteenth century the Mongols seized the ruler 
of China and sentenced him to a long term of hard labour, 
but noticing once how the cup from which the emperor had 
drunk, glowed with a purple light, they sent him with all 
honours back to China, as they believed this to be the will of 
Heaven. Especially have the leaders of the people to follow 
closely all the " signs " of the sky. The Mongols regard 
Jenghiz Khan as having taught them the following wisdom: 
" The highest happiness, with which nothing can be compared, 
is for the ruler of a land to be in the favour of the eternal 
heavens." * 

In crossing over to the most northern peoples of Siberia, 
we no longer find this deep belief in the Providence of Heaven. 


The Heaven god of the Tungus, Samoyeds and Yenisei 
Ostiaks is generally regarded as a being so apart, that he in 
no way directs towards men any action of a commanding or 
avenging character. It is therefore unnecessary to fear the 
heavens. It is also expressly said, concerning the Heaven god 
of the Yakuts, that he does not concern himself with doings 
on earth or the fates of men. A certain tale shows God as 
saying of mortals: " In letting them down upon the earth I 
did not say to them: ' Come back! ' If they increase, let 
them increase, if they die, let them die." l0 In other places, 
however, conceptions differing from the foregoing appear. 

Extremely widespread among the peoples of Central Asia 
is, further, the belief that Heaven is some kind of a giver of 
life. As a life-creating god of this description the sky is 
imagined as male, though not anthropomorphic, with the earth, 
as its opposite, female. Both are then gods of birth, the 
former acting the part of father, the latter that of mother: 
the sky procreates, the earth gives birth. Doubtless, this con- 
ception is founded on observations made in nature. The effects 
of light, warmth, rain and wind on vegetation in particular, 
awakened in the mind of primitive man the idea of similar 
effects on all that has life. Thus the thought arose that the 
sky gives the spirit, the Earth Mother the material body. 

In this same connection there is perhaps reason to point out 
that certain Central Asian peoples, as, for instance, the Buriats, 
have for the sake of f ruitfulness worshipped a certain kind of 
stone, said to have dropped down from the sky. A very 
famous " fallen stone " is near the town of Balagansk. Dur- 
ing a long drought the Buriats sacrifice to it in order to obtain 
refreshing rains. The stone, which is white in colour, is said 
by the people to have originally fallen on a mountain, whence 
it has later removed to several different places. Among the 
Buriats by Khudinsk, each village is said to possess a smaller 
" fallen stone," kept in the middle of the village in a trunk 
attached to a post. In the Balagansk District, where these 


stones are larger, they are generally placed on a platform sup- 
ported by four posts. In the hope of a rainy and fruitful 
summer they are wetted in the spring and offerings are made 
to them. Probably, these stones dropped from Heaven, which 
in shape often resemble the longish weapons of the Stone Age, 
are, as Agapitov assumes, relics of a Mongol phallus cult. 11 

The belief in the procreative powers of the sky is reflected 
in numberless tales, in which it is explained how the children 
of men and the young of animals have come from Heaven to 
the earth. Generally, however, it is believed that only the 
souls of these come from Heaven. The Yakuts believe that 
the soul of a child comes down to its mother in the shape of a 
bird. 18 According to a Mongol tale the soul of the founder 
of the power of the Sjanbi tribe, Tanshikai, came down from 
above as hail, which fell on the lips of his mother. A certain 
ancestor of the Mongols was born in such a manner that a 
descending ray of light fructified his mother. Jenghiz Khan 
is said by the tales to have been born of a virgin, wherefore he 
could call the sky " father." " All these ideas spring from the 
same original idea, viz., that the sky is the giver of the spirit 
and life. 

Whether the name of the Yakut Heaven god, Ajy-tangara 
(" Creator god," really " Creative Heaven "), springs from 
the preceding belief, which is doubtless extremely old, we do 
not know for certain. The Chuvash, however, seem to 
possess a counterpart, Suratan-Tura (really "Birth-giving 
Heaven "), a name connected also with the Aurora Borealis. 
They believe that the sky, during this phenomenon, " gives 
birth to a son." Suratan-Tura is said to ameliorate the agonies 
of a woman in child-birth." Otherwise, the idea of this deity 
is somewhat confused. Among the Yakut gods we find also 
other names for the Creator god, Ajy ("Creator"), Yryn- 
Ajy (« White Creator ") or Yryn-Ajy-Tojon {tojon " lord ") 
and Aihyt-Aga ("Creator Father"). Although the same 
names may be used for the Creator of the Christian teachings, 


the ideas in question cannot be said to have arisen from these 
teachings. By the side of Ajy-Tojon, appears a special deity 
of birth, Ajysit, the name, like Ajy, being derived from the 
verb at (" to give birth to," " to create "). Ajysit, of whom 
we shall speak later, is generally regarded as a feminine being 
(Ajysit-Khotun, " Ajysit-mistress "), and brings the soul from 
heaven to the child while being born, helping also the woman 
in the pains of child-birth. In prayers this deity is often re- 
ferred to as Ajysit-Ijaksit (" Procreating-Nourishing"), a 
term corresponding to the qualifying term of the Votiak 
Heaven god, Kildis-Vordis. Possibly from the Turco-Tatar 
peoples the Volga Finns obtained their Creator-god (Votiak 
Kildisin, Cheremiss Satsektse or Sotsen, Mordvin Skaj), 
names derived from verbs denoting procreation and birth- 

It is certain that the conception of the creative power of the 
heavens of the Central Asian peoples is extremely old. Among 
the more northern tribes the conception does not appear quite as 
clearly, although they also, like the Yenisei Ostiaks, believe 
that not only men, but animals also, have the sky to thank 
for their existence: Heaven (Es) "gives," Heaven "sends," 
even " lets fall," what the earth needs. 16 A similar giver of 
everything good is the Buga or Savoki of the Tungus, also 
called " the Lord " (Amaka). 

The close connection between the Heaven god and light 
and the sun, appears from the sacrificial rites. Sacrifices to 
the Heaven god are offered always towards the direction of the 
" day " or the dawn, and at the same time the votive animal, 
when such is used, has to be white in colour. Sacrifices to the 
Heaven god among the most northern peoples are, however, 
comparatively rare. In some places it has been the custom to 
consecrate some live domestic animal, a horse or a reindeer, 
which is then never worked and is looked after well. In 
older times a consecrated animal of this description was driven 
far to the eastward. 


A curious custom, which occurs among the Yakuts, is that 
several trees are erected before the victim, of which seven 
bear leaves and a few have figures of birds upon them. All 
these trees, which are ranged in a row, represent the different 
storeys of heaven, through which the victim is to wander to 
the Supreme God in the highest Heaven. A corresponding 
custom exists among the Dolgans, who, at the shaman cere- 
mony set up, one behind the other, nine stumps, on which are 
figures of birds. There also these stumps represent the nine 
storeys of Heaven through which the shaman, with the help 
of these birds, will fly to God. 18 

The idea of the purity of Heaven would also seem to be of 
great antiquity. More even than the rest of nature, the sky 
loves cleanliness. Very widespread is a tale of how the clouds 
were at an earlier time lower down, but, after being soiled by 
the people, rose higher. An example of the purity of the sky, 
from which later sprang the belief in the holiness of God, is 
given by the Tungus of the North Siberian primeval forests. 
According to them, a woman, during her period of unclean- 
ness, should not look up at the sky. Common also is the belief 
that the lightning strikes places where something evil or filthy 
is hidden. 

Where the Heaven god has begun to be regarded as a kind 
of anthropomorphic being, the heavens have become merely 
the dwelling-place of this being. Countless tales relate how 
God has a magnificent home in the sky, sometimes also a wife 
and children, servants, cattle, and other property. In the 
brilliant palace of God a Tatar hero was once on a visit, and 
was received well and entertained with food, etc." The special 
characteristics of these tales have, however, hardly been in- 
corporated with the beliefs concerning heaven. 

The old Babylonian idea of the seven or more storeys of 
Heaven gave rise to the thought that the Over-god dwells in 
the topmost storey of Heaven. The Yryn-Ajy-Tojon of the 
Yakuts dwells sometimes in the seventh, sometimes in the 


ninth storey of Heaven, depending on the number of storeys 
believed to be in the sky. The Es of the Yenisei Ostiaks lives 
in a transparent palace over the seventh Heaven, and accord- 
ing to the Ugrians the dwelling-place of God is in the seventh 
Heaven." We see thus, that this belief has spread also among 
the most northern of the Siberian peoples. 

In the same way as the ancient Babylonians regarded the 
navel of the sky. as the throne of Anu, whence he ruled over 
the earth, the Central Asian peoples place the abode of the 
Over-god somewhere around the North Star. 18 Wherever 
the belief in a Heaven-mountain has spread, God is regarded 
as dwelling on the summit of this mountain, which touches the 
North Star. In connection with the world-pillar it has already 
been mentioned how some of the North Siberian peoples wor- 
ship the Heaven god in connection with this pillar, as shown, 
e.g., by the " seven-divisioned Sanke " of the Ostiaks. A more 
suitable throne in the sky than the stationary, changeless region 
of the sky-navel near the North Star, whence he can best 
direct the countless, varying activities of the earth, can hardly 
be imagined for the Over-god. 

Many flattering attributes are given to their Over-god by 
the Central Asian peoples. The Altai Tatars call him 
"Great" (Vlgon, Olgen), or "Rich and Great" (Bai- 
Olgon). "Merciful Khan " (Kaira-Khan) and other general 
names are also given to him. The term Burkhan-Baksi (really 
" Buddha-master "), which the Mongols, Buriats and Soyots 
have begun to use for their highest god, was brought by Bud- 
dhists from China. 


CLOSELY connected with the Heaven god, according to 
the Siberian peoples, are certain other gods living in 
the sky, the number of which is precisely fixed. Extremely 
common is a group of seven gods, said to act as the assistants 
of the Over-god. 

More especially in the beliefs of the Kirghis and the Siberian 
Tatars, do these gods play an important part. In the Altaic 
tales mention is made of seven beings named Kudai (" god "), 
situated in the third storey of Heaven on the Siiro (" Maj- 
esty w ) mountain. 1 The Yakuts call this group of seven gods, 
which they declare forms " the suite of the Over-god Ai- 
Tojon," Satta-Kuro-Dzusagai-Ai {s'dtt'd, " seven ")j they are 
supposed to be the tutelary genii of horses, and a sacrifice of 
kumiss is poured into the fire for them at the spring festivals. 2 
Often these grouped spirits are called the sons of the Over-god. 
Certain of the Altaic tribes can recount the names of these 
"seven sons": Jashigan, Karshit, Bakhtagan, Kara, Kushkan, 
Kanym and Jaik. 3 Much cannot, however, be grounded on 
these names, as they vary greatly in the different districts. 
As little known as the names of this group are the spheres of 
activity ascribed to each. In the corresponding list of the 
Lebed Tatars, Kanym appears as the wife of Olgen. Kara 
(" Black "), also Kara-Khan, according to these last, has left 
his father and, instead of the light-filled abodes of Heaven, has 
chosen the dark holes of the underworld as his lot. Jaik or 
Jaik-Khan is the prince of the flood and at the same time a 
kind of escort to the souls bound for Hades. 4 

Names for the seven " sons " of the Heaven god have also 
been invented by the Voguls and the Ostiaks, although these 


are for the most part the names of their own district gods. 
The list of the Voguls comprises, according to Gondatti, the 
following spirits: the god of Pelym, the god of the upper field 
of the Ob, the god of the Holy Ural, the Prince of the river 
Aut, the god of the Little Ob, the god of the Sosva centre, 
and the " Earth-watching Man." In the information ob- 
tained by Munkacsi from Sygva the following are named: 
the god of Pelym, the Old Man of the village Tek, the Holy 
Prince of the Lozva-water, the god of the Sosva centre, the 
god of the Little Ob, the Old Man of the village Lopmus, 
and the " Earth-watching man." Part of the corresponding 
catalogue of the Ostiaks by Tremyugan deserves mention: 
" The Forest-game-sharing man " and the " youngest son " of 
the Heaven god, Khan-Iki (" Prince old man "). The former 
is a deity living in the sky, from whom game is prayed for, 
and to whom, as to a Heaven god, a white animal has to be 
sacrificed. The greatest interest is, however, awakened by 
the " youngest son " among this group, the Vogul " Earth- 
watching man," the Khan-Iki of the Ostiaks, to whom many 
tales are attached and who is certainly not an original Ugrian 

The fact that these seven gods are but little known to the 
Siberian peoples, as is often true of their names also, draws 
our attention to their number. We know the Iranians to have 
had a group of gods of the same number, Amesha Spentas, 
and similarly, the Adityas of the Rgveda were originally seven 
gods, the duties of whom, like that of the Siberian sons of 
God, was the watching over and the control of the heavenly 
laws of nature. We arrive thus at the assumption that these 
Asiatic gods, wherever they may be met with, have the same 
origin. But where and how did this heavenly group first take 

Light is thrown on the problem by the picture of Heaven 
of the Vasyugan Ostiaks, seen by the a eyes of the soul " of 
the shamans, and described by them in songs. From these we 


learn that the heavens are seven-storeyed, in the topmost of 
which the Over-god Num-Torem himself lives, and in the 
lower ones his sons. The dwellers in these storeys of the sky 
are called also by names borrowed from the Tatars, Torem- 
Talmas ( w Heaven interpreter "; talmas = Tatar tolmats) or 
Torem-Karevel (" Heaven watcher "$ karevel = Tatar kara- 
vel). The names of the separate " Interpreters " are unknown 
to the Vasyugans, neither can their activities be explained, but 
they are believed to live one in each storey of the heavens. 
Usually, they are called after the sacrifices offered up to each. 
i. "The arrow-sacrifice Torem" receives arrows shot any- 
where into the skyj 2. " The cloth-sacrifice Torem," who re- 
ceives a" cloak of white cloth, which is hung up on forest 
expeditions in some birch in a primitive forest} 3. " The sable- 
sacrifice Torem," who is given a sable-skin, kept in a box taken 
on forest expeditions; 4. a The cup-sacrifice Torem," for whom 
a special tin cup is kept in the storeroom j $'. " The horned- 
deer-sacrifice Torem," for whom the hide of a deer killed in 
the forest is left, with horns and hoofs attached, hanging on a 
birch. This spirit is believed to let down game and fish upon 
the earth for men, and is the same being as the previously 
mentioned " Forest-game-sharing man." As the sixth a 
Russian saint, Nikolai the miracle-maker, is mentioned, the 
latter being the protective spirit of travellers by water, to whom 
the Ostiaks hang up the skin of a marten in their store-rooms 
as a sacrifice.* 

As Karjalainen points out, this Karevel arrangement is not 
an invention of the Ostiaks, but has reached them in the first 
instance from the Tatars. It is unfortunate that we should 
know so little of the beliefs of the pagan period of the Tatar 
tribe geographically nearest to the Ugrians, a tribe from which 
these have acquired much interesting culture, but among the 
tribes further south, which have better preserved the beliefs of 
their forefathers we find a corresponding idea to the Ostiak 
Karevel arrangement, appearing in such a manner that each 


son of the Over-god is given a different storey of the heavens 
as dwelling-place. Radloff relates that he obtained from the 
Lebed Tatars on his travels the following description of their 
heaven: "The original Father, the Creator of everything, is 
Kudai Bai-t)lgon; he has four sons: Pyrshak-Khan, Tos-Khan, 
Kara-Khan and Suilap. The son of Suilap is Sary-Khan, and 
the son of Pyrshak-Khan is Kyrgys-Khan, the protective spirit 
of the local Tatars. All of these gods except Kara-Khan bring 
happiness to men. They give food and protection against 
dangers. To the highest god, t)lgon, white horses are sacri- 
ficed, to Pyrshak and his descendant brown ones; to all the 
gods, grain is further sacrificed. The gods live in Heaven, 
which according to these Tatars, is seven-storeyed. In the top- 
most lives Olgon and his wife Kanym, in the next Pyrshak- 
Khan, in the third Tos-Khan, in the fourth Kyrgys-Khan, in 
the fifth Suilap, in the sixth Sary-Khan, and in the seventh the 
messengers sent by the gods down to men. Kara-Khan 
{" Black Prince ") is said to have deserted his father and re- 
moved from the light-filled dwellings of Heaven to the under- 
world." 7 

It is to be understood that this heavenly order is not an 
invention of the Turco-Tatar peoples, but has come to them 
from elsewhere. For this reason the signification of the dif- 
ferent gods is so vague to the people; from the investigator, 
however, these gods dwelling in the seven storeys of the 
heavens cannot hide their origin, pointing plainly, as they do to 
the Babylonian Planet gods, which, in their distant fatherland, 
ruled over seven discs of the sky situated one above the other. 

In another description recorded by Radloff, in which seven- 
teen storeys of heaven are spoken of, a detail that is only an 
accidental transformation found amongst a certain Altaic tribe, 
the sun is mentioned as dwelling in the seventh, and the moon 
in the sixth storey of Heaven.* Thus the sun and the moon 
govern two sky-discs situated one above the other. In the 
seventh storey, together with the sun, lives an omniscient 


Mergen-Tengere (" Sharpshooter-god"), who reminds one of 
the Ostialc " Arrow-sacrifice Torem." Dare one assume this 
deity to reflect an ancient god of lightning? 

As the spirit of the ninth Heaven, Radloff mentions Kysa- 
gan-Tengere. The corresponding Kisagan-Tengri of the 
Mongols was the god of war, believed to protect the army, to 
direct it in dangerous and difficult places, and to procure victory 
for it by vanquishing the enemy. In the fifth storey lived 
Kudai Jajutshi. If these, as seems probable, were originally 
Star gods, the counterpart of the former would be the Babylo- 
nian Nergal (Mars). Of the spirits of the upper storeys of 
heaven only Kaira-Khan (" merciful khan ") and Bai-Olgon 
(" Rich and Great ") are mentioned, the former being placed 
in the seventeenth and the latter in the sixteenth storey of 
Heaven j according to the most general belief, however, these 
names apply to the same Over-god. The " black " Kara or 
Kara-Khan of the earlier lists, who descended from Heaven to 
Hades, being doubtless a Star god, deserves special attention j 
on account of his colour and other attributes he may possibly 
correspond to Saturn, called " the black star " by the ancient 

Instead of the more original group of seven, a group of 
nine " sons n or " servants " of God appears in some districts. 
Thus, in the tales of the Mongols we often meet with " nine 
Tengeri, protectors and brothers," these words denoting attri- 
butes often ascribed to them. 8 The Buriats can give the names 
of the " nine sons " of the Over-god. These are, however, 
exceedingly artificial and vary in the different districts. Doubt- 
less, these " nine sons " or " brothers " originally signified the 
Planet gods, from whom the names of the days of the week 
have been taken, although others have come later to join them 
as the storeys in Heaven were increased to nine. Banzarov 
says expressly that the Mongols worshipped " nine great stars, 
which corresponded to nine Tengeri." 10 The group of nine 
has not been as common in Asia as the group of seven, which is 


known also in Eastern Asia. In ancient times the Chinese 
worshipped the " seven rulers " or " directors " of the sky, by 
which they are said to have meant the sun, the moon and five 
planets. Where the numbers seven and nine have started to 
compete among themselves, one notices that the former has 
often given way to the latter. 

These sacred numbers of the gods have in places left their 
mark on the sacrificial cults. The descriptions of the sacrifices 
among the Chuvash living on the Volga often mention nine 
sacrificial priests, nine sacrificial animals, nine cauldrons, etc." 
Naturally the recipients of these sacrifices were formerly as 
numerous^ therefore the people even now try to arrange their 
gods in a series of nine. Built on a similar foundation is the 
custom of the Finnish tribes in East Russia, especially of the 
pagan Cheremiss, of placing in some districts, when sacrificing 
to the Heaven god, nine sacrificial loaves and as many bowls 
of honey-drink on their altars. 12 On the sacrifice platform of 
the Yakuts one may also see nine small bowls." 

But let us return again to the older group of seven gods, 
the members of which the Ostiaks call " the Interpreters " or 
K the Watchmen of Heaven." The conception of the Planet 
gods as a kind of interpreters seems to be of great antiquity. 
Diodorus already speaks of it in describing the Chaldean fore- 
casting from the stars in the following words: " Most impor- 
tant to them is the examination of the movements of those 
five stars, which are called planets. They call them the ( In- 
terpreters ' (^pjuTjwts) ; to the one we call Saturn they give a 
special name, ' Sun-star,' as they have it to thank for their 
newest and most important forecasts. They call the planets 
' Interpreters ' because, while the other stars never deviate 
from their routes, these go their own ways and thus interpret 
the future and reveal to men the mercy of the gods." 

The duties of these heavenly *' Interpreters " is thus made 
clear by Diodorus. According to the Chaldeans the starry 
heavens are a book of fate, reflecting the path of life on earth, 


and also affording to the wise an opportunity of reading the 
future. That the ancient Babylonians already knew the 
" Tables of Fate " and the " Book of Life " is known to us 
from the Bible. Founded on these ancient models is the belief 
of the Ostiaks, that the helpers of God write in the "Book 
of Fate," according to his dictation, each time a child is born, 
the length and all the varying fortunes of its life. 1 * That these 
helpers or assistants are the previously described seven gods 
appears from the old tales of the western Tatar tribes of 
Siberia, in which seven Kudai live in a tent in the sky, before 
which is the "golden tethering-post." Here the gods sit in 
their abode behind a curtain, with the great " Book of Life " 
before them, marking down births and deaths and deciding 
the fate of men. 1 * 

Though these fatalistic beliefs may have spread with Islam 
wherever this religion obtained foothold, and thus among the 
Turco-Tatar peoples also, it is still evident that, even much 
earlier, they had taken deep root in the conception of life 
current among the Central Asian peoples. It is to be noted 
that the " Interpreters " and the " Sons of God " already 
appear in the pagan beliefs. The Kudai of the Tatar tribes 
already referred to have clearly come from Persia, as their 
name, a Persian loan-word, shows. 

The most interesting of all the assistants of the Heaven 
god is a certain being, who, through the Turco-Tatar peoples, 
has reached the distant Ostiak territory. This being has a 
special duty to perform, as the name " Writer man " shows. 
On the Demyanka he is regarded as the " first assistant of the 
Heaven god " and is believed to live in heaven, a little lower 
than the Over-god himself. His duty is said to be " to write 
in the Book of Fate, according to the dictation of the Over- 
god, how long and in what circumstances a mortal may live 
on the earth." When a person dies, the Ostiaks say: "His 
days written by the * Writer man * have finished." In other 
Ostiak districts a deity, of this name is unknown, and for this 


reason Karjalainen assumes him to be of late origin and to 
have sprung from the Heaven god himself, in other words, 
he is a being developed from one of the Heaven god's attri- 
butes, as, according to an explanation recorded by the author 
in question at Tsingala, the name " Life-time writing man " 
is one of the names of the Heaven god." This assumption is 
hardly correct, since besides being the writer of the Book of 
Fate, this deity appears also as the bearer of God's commands. 
The Irtysh Ostiaks call him by a name borrowed from the 
Tatars, Pairekse, and believe that his duties are to come down 
to the earth on reconnaissances as the messenger of the heavens, 
and to write in the Book of Fate the length and circumstances 
of the life of each person being born. As the messenger and 
spy of the Over-god he has been given the attribute " the Man 
of many lands," " the Travelling man." According to the 
Ostiaks these journeys are often made in the shape of some 
animal, occasionally as a goose. As such he resembles more the 
"younger son " of God, " the world-watching man " or Ort- 
iki, who in the shape of a goose or " sitting on the wings of a 
goose goes to the place he desires," and who, in tales, is called 
the "goose spirit." Further, the winged steed of the deity 
under discussion, on which as the mediator between God and 
man he flies through the air, and from " one nostril of which 
fire darts out, from the other smoke," is spoken of . lT However 
great the number of tales mixed up with these names may be, 
it is probable that this messenger of God, the " Man of many 
lands," the " Travelling man," did not originate among the 
Ostiaks. Still less can a " writing " god have had his birth 
among people who have never been able to write. 

The same being was known to the Chuvash living on the 
Volga, in their belief that the god of Fate, Kaba, sends to the 
earth at the birth of each child a being called Piileh, who 
decrees the fate of the child and notes down its name. Having 
accomplished his task, he returns to heaven and relates the 
matter to the god of Fate." Possibly, the same being is to be 


found in the Cheremiss " Propounder of God," to whom, when 
sacrificing to the Heaven god, a special offering is prepared, 
in order that he may lay before his master the troubles of the 
Cheremiss people. 1 * The Votiaks also, at their horse-sacri- 
fices, have a custom of sacrificing a goose, without knowing 
any longer to which deity it is intended, remarking only that 
the goose escorts the sacrificial horse to heaven. 

In searching for the origin of the Writing god, we must 
turn again to the land of the twin rivers, where the art of 
writing was known earlier than elsewhere in Asia, and where, 
from ancient times, the Tables of Fate and the Book of Life 
were known. A god corresponding to the " Writing man " 
of the Ostiaks is also to be found among the ancient Babylo- 
nians, who call this scribe of the gods Nabu. As the writer of 
the Book of Fate he is pictured with an object resembling a 
pen in his hand and the art of writing is itself called "the 
wisdom of Nabu." Among the planets he appears as Mercury. 
The same being is met with in another land where the art 
of writing was known, Egypt, where Thout is the counterpart 
of the Babylonian scribe. This ibis-headed deity is often 
pictured, like Nabu, with a tablet and writing materials in his 
hand. 20 

In addition to the groups of gods just mentioned, we meet 
in the mythology of Central Asia with more numerous groups, 
these forming also a closed ring, the origin of which the people 
can no longer explain. As in the Altaic tale of the Sumeru 
mountain, the thirty-three gods (Tengeri) believed to live 
on this world-mountain have come from India. Most prob- 
ably connected with these gods is the information given by 
Verbitskiy regarding the cosmos of the Altaic peoples, that 
"in Heaven there are thirty-three discs, one higher than the 
other." 21 

Three times greater is the crowd of Tengeri in the Buriat 
Heaven. These were divided either according to their disposi- 
tions into good and evil, or according to where their habitations 


were supposed to be, into " western " and " eastern." The 
" western," friendly to man, were called " white "; the eastern, 
bringing all kinds of evil, fogs, diseases, and other misfortunes, 
were called "black" Tengeri. Of the former there are 
fifty-five, of the latter forty-four. The Mongols have also 
known these ninety-nine Tengeri of Heaven. The Burials 
relate how these gods, who formerly, lived in peace together, 
quarrelled among themselves. In the beginning there were 
then fifty-four western, good Tengeri and forty-four eastern, 
evil ones, one being on the border of each group but belonging 
to neither. Being in the minority, the " easterns " begged 
this solitary god, the name of whom is said to have been Segen- 
Sebdek-Tengeri, to join their side, but the " westerns " put 
up a resistance and tempted this god to their own side. In some 
districts the source of the disagreement, and even of the war 
among the gods, is mentioned as being the beautiful daughter 
of Segen-Sebdek-Tengeri, whom both groups passionately 
wished to own. 2 ' 

That these ninety-nine gods are not the invention of either 
Buriats or Mongols, appears already from the fact that these 
peoples do not know the grounds for the above division, nor 
do the names given by the Buriats to these gods throw light 
on the question. To judge from all the data, this idea has 
arrived complete from elsewhere. 

More difficult is the explanation as to how this fancy has 
originated. An idea has spread among the Altai Tatars, that 
besides this earth of ours, the smallest and lowest, there are 
ninety-nine other worlds. 23 It is further related that when 
Olgen thrust out the devil Erlik and his company from 
Heaven, Erlik pronounced the following words: u Thou hast 
cast out my servants and myself from Heaven to the earth, 
these falling in forty-three different places. Therefore shall 
I send out these forty-three kinds of servants (etker) and these 
shall work evil each in the place where he has fallen from 
Heaven, and trouble men up to their death." Counting Erlik 



himself there are thus forty-four of these Altai Tatar evil 
spirits, or as many as the evilly-disposed Tengeri of the Buri- 
als.'* The placing of the evil spirits in the east and the good 
in the west by the latter is peculiar, all other peoples having 
a contrary opinion. Most probably some star-myth is at the 
back of these beliefs also. For the sake of comparison it may 
be mentioned that the Chinese know of seventy-two good and 
thirty-six evil Star gods. 


AMONG the eastern Finno-Ugric peoples we have already 
met with a mighty goddess of birth, called by the Chere- 
miss and the Mordvins the " Great birth-mother," whose 
dwelling-place these peoples, like the Votiaks and the Ugrians 
living on the Ob, believe to be in the sky. The same goddess 
is known to certain peoples of the Altaic race. When cele- 
brating their spring-festival at the time when the flowers 
break forth, the Altai Tatars, among other deities, remember 
a goddess called " The Lake of Milk." In many prayers she 
is referred to as the " Milk Lake mother " and worshipped as 
the giver of all life. 1 That this great goddess was known 
earlier over a comparatively wide area among the Turco-Tatar 
peoples, is proved by the fact that the " Milk Lake mother " 
appears also in the list of deities of the Chuvash living by the 
Volga. 2 But according to the ideas of the peoples mentioned, 
this mythical, deified lake is situated, as we have seen earlier, 
beside the tree of life in the centre of the earth. Certain 
Altaic tribes, who believe paradise to be situated in the third 
Heaven, speak of the " milk lake " to be found there, from 
which the god of birth, Jajutsi (" the decreer "), takes " life- 
force each time a child is born into the world." * 

A Central Asian tale would also seem to place the fabled 
lake in Heaven, describing as it does how a certain mighty Khan 
had promised his daughter in marriage to him who would pro- 
cure him a wing of the Garuda eagle. To the heroes partaking 
in this quest, a youth joins himself, who wishes to know where 
this mythical bird dwells. When the heroes have arrived at a 
high mountain, they notice how the sky above them begins to 


grow white. The youth then asks: " What is behind that 
sky? " The others explain that it is the lake of milk. . . . 
" But what is the dark thing in its centre? " the youth asks 
again, and is told that it is the forest, in which the bird dwells/ 
Quite plainly, therefore, the " milk lake " of the story has 
been imagined as situated on a mountain reaching to the 
heavens, up which mountain the heroes have to climb. The 
forest in the centre of the lake of milk answers to the tree of 
life, in the crown of which other tales also declare the fabled 
bird to dwell. 

The conception of a lake of milk, believed to be the source of 
all life, and worshipped as a female deity, is not a product of 
Turco-Tatar mythology, but has drifted there from elsewhere. 
A parallel to this belief is to be found in the ancient Iranian 
paradise myths, where the lake of milk is represented by the 
lake Ardvisura Anahita, which gleams from under the tree of 
life on the Hara Berezaiti mountain, the said lake being re- 
garded by the Iranians as a goddess of birth, to whom, in their 
poetry, they ascribe anthropomorphic features. Without doubt, 
the Yakut Kubai-Khotun, dwelling in the tree of life or under 
its roots, is the same deity, and was regarded by them as the 
great mother of both men and animals. As such she has 
" breasts as large as leather sacks." * Sometimes she is men- 
tioned as the wife of the Heaven god, the plenteousness of her 
milk being described in a Buriat tale about the origin of the 
Milky Way. This phenomenon is explained by them as having 
been caused by the overflow of milk from the breasts of the 
Heaven goddess (Manzan Gormo). 6 A corresponding myth 
was known to the ancient Greeks, who declared the Milky 
Way to have been formed when Hera snatched her breast 
from the mouth of the infant Heracles, whom she hated, so 
that drops of milk were scattered over the sky. From this, 
the name met with in many European languages — the Milky 
Way (cf . ancient Indian Soma-Dhara, " Soma Way ") — has 
obviously been derived. 


In Yakut prayers, the above-mentioned goddess of birth has 
most often the name Ajysyt (" Birthgiver," " Procreator ") or 
Ajy-Khotun ("Birth-giving mistress'*), and children are 
prayed for from her, whom she is believed to present at her 
fancy to the woman who has gained her favour. As she is 
regarded at the same time as birth-giving and nourishing, she is 
referred to by a name with these significations, " Birthgiving 
Nourishing mother" (Ajysyt-Ijaksit-Khotun). 7 In some dis- 
tricts the great mother is believed to pour down from Heaven 
a white elixir of life to one who is in the throes of death.* 
Tales relate how a woman during severe birth-cramp directs a 
prayer to the Heavens and how, shortly afterwards, two Ajysyts 
sink down to the earth, and coming to the woman, give their 
assistance, after which she gives birth to a son.' Generally, 
however, the people speak only of one goddess, who is said to 
bring the soul of the child from Heaven, as according to the 
prevalent belief, mortals give birth to the embryo only, life 
being furnished by Ajysyt. In one prayer the child-bearing 
woman says to her protective genius : " Thou, my mild Crea- 
tress, the first day on which thou didst let down me to the 
' central place ' — i.e., the earth — thou didst say: * Be pro- 
vided with a ceaseless breathing, with an eternal life. May 
the cattle brought up by thee flourish, may the children borne 
by thee be many.' " 10 Probably connected with this belief is 
the conception that the souls of animals also are let down from 
the heavens. 

Further light is thrown on the foregoing by the belief of 
the Ostiaks, that the great Birth-giving mother dwells in 
Heaven on a mountain with seven storeys, where she fixes the 
fate of all, by writing at the birth of each child in a golden 
book or on a " gold-ornamented seven-branch," i.e., the tree 
of life, the forthcoming events of its life." 

The Siberian peoples, after a successful delivery, have been 
in the habit of preparing a feast to the goddess of birth, in 
which only women may take part. The Yakuts usually cele- 


brate this feast three days after a birth, at which time the 
goddess of birth is believed to depart. Flesh of the votive 
animal is placed for the deity at the head of the bed, and 
especially butter, a little of which each one present throws 
laughing merrily into the firej at the same time the women rub 
their hands and faces with butter "in order to become fruit- 
ful." In some districts, after the birth of a boy, a small tent 
of birch-bark is made by the fireside, and horses and cows and 
a bow and arrows made of the same material placed within it. 
The intention of this magic ceremony is the developing o£ the 
boy as a capable member of the community. 12 


THE NOMADS of the Altaic race, like most other peoples 
of the earth, early turned their attention to the stars and 
believed that they, in some mysterious way, occasioned the 
changes of season and weather. The stars were also most im- 
portant guides for travellers on the prairies, in the forests, and 
on the tundra. For a thousand years the Great Bear, regularly 
moving round the Pole Star, that ever-stationary " pole " of 
the sky, and never disappearing below the horizon, has played 
an important part in the lives of all the peoples of the Northern 
Hemisphere. Not only the Altaic race but innumerable other 
peoples have used it, in addition to the sun and the moon, for 
measuring time. The ancient Finns are also said to have gone 
to " see the moon, to learn of the Great Bear." In Central 
and East Asia the Great Bear even determined the seasons. 
" When the tail of the Great Bear points eastward it is spring 
over all the world, when it points southward it is summer, 
when westward, autumn, but when it turns to the north it is 
winter over all the world." Some peoples foretell changes in 
the weather by this constellation. The Ostiaks on the Ob, 
who call it " the stag," say that when " the stag shrinks," i.e., 
when the stars of the Great Bear seem to draw together, there 
will be frost, but contrariwise, or when "the stag expands," 
mild weather and snowfalls may be expected. 1 

The greatest changes in the weather are believed, however, 
to be the work of the Pleiades. Even in other countries, such 
as America and the South Sea Islands, the rising and the 
setting of this constellation are considered as signs of the com- 
ing of cold or warm weather, a rainy or a dry period. In the 


beliefs of European peoples also, the influence of the Pleiades 
on the climate plays a certain part. In the question-forms 
which were used by Forbus as guides in gathering Lapp folk- 
lore there is a question: "Have you worshipped the Pleiades 
that they might give warm weather? " 2 The Turkish peoples 
believe the Pleiades to be chiefly the causers of cold. The 
Yakuts say that they " bring the winter." s The foundation 
of this thought is naturally to be found in the fact that a colder 
period follows the appearance of the Pleiades, whereas their 
setting takes place at the beginning of the warm season. The 
Yakuts say that the winter in former days was much colder 
and drearier than it is now, but since a shaman hacked in twain 
the binding-rod of the Pleiades, they have been able to move 
more quickly and thus the winter has become shorter. When 
the shaman struck, splinters flew into the air, which are now the 
innumerable stars/ 

The idea of the Pleiades as the cause of cold weather is fur- 
ther reflected in the old name of this constellation, which is 
the same in several languages of Turkish origin: Urker, Crgel, 
etc. Gorochov says that in Yakut Crgel means " air-hole." s 
Further weight is given to this idea by a Yakut tale. This tells 
how a hero once gathered together thirty wolf-leg hides and 
from them made himself a pair of gloves with which to stop 
the Orgel, as it " blew upon him endless frost and wind." " 
The Votiaks and even the Lithuanians and the Baltic Finns 
called this constellation " the sieve." 

The Siberian peoples seem to have considered it impossible 
to solve the question of what the innumerable stars of the sky 
really are. The belief of the Yakuts that they are small holes 
through which heavenly light shines is easy to understand. 
In other places they are declared to be "the reflection of the 
heavenly ocean." * 



The Altaic peoples speak oi a time when there was no sun 
and no moon. They say that people, who then flew in the air, 
gave out light and warmed their surroundings themselves, so 
that they did not even miss the heat of the sun. But when one 
of them fell ill God sent a spirit to help these people. This 
spirit commenced by stirring the primeval ocean with a pole 
10,000 fathoms long, when suddenly two goddesses flew into 
the sky. He also found two metal mirrors (toli) t which he 
placed in the sky. Since then there has been light on the 
earth. 8 

This tale is doubtless grounded on a previously-mentioned 
conception, that people living before the fall in paradise were 
a kind of luminous beings. The Kalmucks distinctly say that 
at the time of paradise there was yet no sun and no moon. 
It was only when the people, by eating of the forbidden 
fruit, fell into sin, and the world around them became dark, 
that the sun and moon were created.* 

The idea of the sun and moon as metal mirrors in the above 
tale is also to be found in beliefs and customs connected with 
the prophesyings of Central Asian shamans. It is commonly 
supposed that everything that takes place on the earth is re- 
flected in the sun and the moon and from these again in the 
magic mirrors of the shamans. There is a story of how a cer- 
tain hero holds his magic mirror toward the sun and the moon 
in order to see in their reflections where the colt which he is 
seeking has disappeared. 10 This manner of finding out things 
has spread among the peoples of North Siberia. Even in 
Ostiak countries the sun is an important means of prophesying 
by sight; by watching it the magician can tell the life and the 
fate of a person far away. 11 Possibly the Siberian shaman's 
custom of fixing metal objects representing the sun and the 
moon on his dress originates in this belief. It is another ques- 
tion whether this belief and this custom are original with the 


Altaic race, or whether they have wandered there from lands 
where prophesying from the stars has long been known and 

Besides those tales which say that the sun and the moon 
were created comparatively late, there are others according to 
which the lights of the sky already existed when the vast 
primeval ocean yet covered all. In Mongolian tales the sun 
and the moon are called sisters, of whom the former says to 
the latter: " Travel thou in the day, I will travel in the night." 
The moon remarked : " There will be so many people about 
in the day, I shall be ashamed to walk abroad then." The 
sisters finally agreed, but the sun regretted that the earth was 
so smooth and that there were no hillocks or mounds above 
the water for the people to live on. The tale does not go on 
to tell how the earth on which the people dwell came to exist. 
We might suppose the moon to have had her share in its 
creation, the ebb and flow of the tide which she causes having 
early attracted the attention at least of coast-dwellers. A tale 
of the Votiaks says that the god of Heaven, Inmar, sent two 
people out during the flood to find earth and to scatter it on 
the surface of the ocean. The first went out in the day, where- 
fore he made the earth smooth, but the second, going out in 
the night, sowed the mountains and valleys on the earth. 

In Central Asia tales have been taken down according to 
which there were three or four suns in primeval times. At 
that time it was unbearably hot upon the earth. The Buriats 
tell how a hero named Erkhe-Mergen shot three suns down 
into the sea with his bow so that only one remained to light 
and warm the earth. 1 ' In a legendary tale of the Torgouts 
it is said that the devil (Shulman) created three suns in order 
to burn the earth made by God (Burkhan-Bakshi). In answer, 
God covered the earth, on which there were as yet no dwellers, 
with a flood, so that the devil was forced to submit. Only one 
sun remained in the sky, the others God plunged later into 
the bottomless pit given to the devil for his dwelling-place. 13 


The following Buriat tale gives a description of the con- 
fining and liberating of the heavenly lights, a theme greatly 
favoured in the stories of many peoples. When Heaven and 
earth through the intermarriage of their children became re- 
lated to one another, the " Lord of the Earth " once made a 
visit to the god of Heaven. On leaving he begged for the 
sun and the moon as presents. The god of Heaven, who 
wished to observe the sacred customs of hospitality, dared not 
refuse, and the " Lord of the Earth " took the lights of the 
sky with him and shut them into a box. Then all nature be- 
came dark. The god of Heaven had no other resource than 
to turn to the porcupine, asking him to help by bringing back 
the sun and the moon. The porcupine agreed to try and made 
a visit to the " Lord oi the Earth." When the guest was 
about to depart, the host asked him what gift he wished as 
a token of hospitality. " Give me the mirage-horse and the 
echo-spear," answered the porcupine, and as the " Lord of 
Earth " could not fulfil so difficult a wish he gave his 
guest the sun and the moon. The porcupine put the lights 
back in their former orbits and the world became bright 

In the tales of Turco-Tatar peoples the porcupine appears as 
a wise and wily creature, sometimes as the inventor of fire, or 
the originator and teacher of agriculture. 1 " Seeing that this 
animal also occupies an important position in the beliefs of the 
ancient Iranians, one might assume that the above mentioned 
tales have come to Central Asia from them. 

The Altaic Tatars describe the nature of the sun and the 
moon by relating how Otshirvani took fire, placed it on his 
sword and slung it in the sky, and thus created the sun, and 
how he made the moon by striking the water with his sword. 
The reason why daylight is burning hot, say the people, is that 
the sun is made of fire, whereas moonlight is cold because this 
star came out of the water." The Dolgans say that the sun 
was created in the day, the moon in the night. 17 


Most of the peoples of Turkish origin living in Siberia 
imagine, when addressing these heavenly lights, the sun to be 
feminine (Mother sun) and the moon masculine (Father moon, 
Old man moon). Often, especially in tales, we also hear 
of the Sun Khan and the Moon Khan. According to Chinese 
sources the Mongolian and the Old Turkish rulers used to 
worship the sun in the morning and the moon in the evening. 1 * 
The Chuvash until quite lately brought the Sun god white 
sacrifices. Concerning moon-worship we have not much other 
information than that it has been a custom to greet the new 
moon and to utter a wish that he would bring good luck and 
prosperity. The most northern peoples of Turkish origin, who 
have eagerly retained their old customs, do not sacrifice to 
the sun or the moon, although these orbs seem to have played 
an important part in the rites of the shamans. Yet both are 
considered by them to be living beings. They believe that the 
sun sees all that people do, and therefore often appeal to it: 
u May the sun see! " or " May the sun know! " In swearing, 
the Yakut turns towards the sun and says: " If I have made a 
wrong oath may the sun refuse me light and warmth." It is 
said that the Tungus believe the sun to watch their conduct 
and to punish their wicked actions. 18 

As is natural, the tribes of Turkish origin, like all other 
nations, keep account of time by the cycles of the sun and the 
changes of the moon. Piano Carpini says that the Mongolians 
never undertook a war expedition or any other important 
work except at the time of the new or the full moon. Weather 
prophesying by the sun is the same in Central and Northern 
Asia as in Europe. The Tungus and the Yenesei Ostiaks 
consider a ring round the moon in winter to be an omen of cold, 
in summer of rain, saying that the moon protects himself from 
the weather by making himself a tent. The Ostiaks on the Ob 
also know this saying. 80 

The spots on the sun and the moon, especially those on the 
latter, have always been interesting themes for tales among all 


peoples. The Yakuts tell of a poor orphan girl for whom life 
was so hard that the moon pitied her and determined to take 
her to him. One frosty night when the girl had gone out to 
get water the moon descended, raised the child to his breast, 
and ascended again to the heavens. Wherefore, we now see 
in the moon a girl bearing a yoke with two buckets on her 
shoulder. In other places there is a story of two children, a 
brother and a sister, who, having gone out to fetch water, 
stayed to watch the moon until he became angry and snatched 
them to him. The Yakuts never allow their children to watch 
the full moon." 

The Buriats see more than a girl with her yoke and buckets 
in the moon. They see also a willow-bush. The girl had had 
a strict and hard-hearted step-mother, who once when the child 
was a long time fetching water cried to her in anger : " Oh, 
that the sun and the moon took thee! " When she was bearing 
water the girl saw the sun and the moon descending towards 
her. In her fright she grasped a willow-bush. When the sun 
was about to take her the moon said: " Thou walkest in the 
day and I in the night. Give the girl to me." The sun agreed 
to the moon's request, who immediately lifted up the child 
with buckets, bush and all. The Yakuts also know this tale 
in the same form. 28 

This tale about the water-f etcher, of which we find a variant 
in the Edda of Snorri, is very widely known in Asia and in 

The Altai Tatars tell of the old man of the moon, who in 
former times lived on the earth and caused great havoc as a 
man-eater. The dwellers of Heaven wished to save the people 
and gathered together to take counsel. The sun said: " I 
would willingly descend to free the poor people from that 
monster were not my heat harmful to them." On hearing this 
the moon remarked that they could well stand his coldness, 
and he descended to the earth, where he found the man-eater 
picking berries from a hawthorn. The moon at once seized 


the wretch and his tree and returned to the sky, where the 
man-eater and the hawthorn can still be seen in the moon. 23 

The primitive peoples of the District of Turukhansk see a 
shaman with his drum in the moon. This formerly mighty 
man undertook to fight against the moon, but scarcely, had he 
drawn near it before the moon made him its prisoner. 24 

The Mongolians and the peoples of the Altai imagined also 
that a hare dwelt in the moon. 25 

The waning of the moon is said by the Yakuts to be caused 
by wolves and bears eating its disc. Every time the moon has 
grown to its ordinary size the beasts again attack it. 28 

According to Buriat tales an eclipse of the sun or the moon 
takes place when a certain beast, which is ever persecuting the 
lights of the sky, swallows the sun and the moon. Once when 
this monster, Alkha, again darkened the world, the gods be- 
came so angry that they cut his body in two. The hind part 
fell down, but the living forepart still haunts the sky. Every 
time Alkha now swallows stars they soon appear again, as the 
beast is unable to retain them in his body. The Buriats say 
that when Alkha is troubling the sun and the moon they pray 
for help, and the people have a custom of screaming and 
making a noise, throwing stones and even shooting up into the 
sky in order to drive away the monster. 27 

A tale recorded in another Buriat district relates that Arakho, 
as the beast is here called, formerly lived upon the earth and 
consumed the hairs off the people's bodies, which at that time 
were quite hairy. Seeing this, God became angry and inquired 
of the moon Arakho's hiding-place. On finding the beast he 
struck it in two, and the living forepart is forever eating the 
moon in consequence. 28 

It is also told that Otshirvani, wishing to sweeten life for 
people and animals, let the sun and the moon prepare water 
of life, but Arakho drank it up and soiled the cup. Having 
inquired the beast's dwelling-place from the moon, God 
hurried there and cut him in two. The forepart, having thus 


become immortal, pursues the moon. Some see the " body " of 
the monster in the moon-spots. 29 

The Arakho who causes eclipses of the sun and moon, and 
who has only a head but no body, is known to the Mongols 
also. The tale originates in India where the monster's name is 
Rahu. Arakho and Alkha are corrupt variants of this name. 

The conception prevalent among the peoples of North-East 
Asia that the persecutor of the lights of heaven is a dragon has 
Come from China. The Altai Tatars say that the eclipse of 
the moon is the work of a man-eater living in a star. The 
Russian Tatars and the Chuvash speak of a vampire which 
sometimes swallows the sun and the moon but soon leaves them 
in peace again, as the stars begin to burn his mouth. 


The significance of the Pole Star in the universe has al- 
ready been mentioned. The fact that other surrounding stars 
seem to circle round that " golden " or " iron pole " has given 
rise to a fancy that bonds exist between them. The Kirghis 
call the three stars of the Little Bear nearest the Pole Star, 
which form an arch, a " rope " to which the two larger stars 
of the same constellation, the two horses, are fastened. One 
of the horses is white, the other bluish-grey. The seven stars 
of the Great Bear they call the -seven watchmen, whose duty 
it is to guard the horses from the lurking wolf. When once 
the wolf succeeds in killing the horses the end of the world 
will come. 30 In other tales the stars of the Great Bear are 
" seven wolves " who pursue those horses. Just before the 
end of the world they will succeed in catching them. 31 Some 
even fancy that the Great Bear is also tied to the Pole Star. 
When once all the bonds are broken there will be great dis- 
turbances in the sky. The Tatars by Minusinsk say that when 
the " seven dogs " are let loose the end of the world will 


The numerous tales about the one or more bound beasts, 
which are to be set free before the end of the world, were 
possibly originally similar star-myths. The Slavs have a story 
about a bound dog whose iron chains form the Little Bear. 
When the dog, who is ever endeavouring to bite his chains in 
two, once gets loose, the end of the world will be at hand." 


Many North Siberian primitive peoples and even the 
Russians living in those parts call the Great Bear a "stag." 
The Samoyeds of the District of Turukhansk fancy that the 
Pole Star is a hunter chasing the stag and trying to kill it.** 
The Yenisei Ostiaks see a stag and three hunters in this con- 
stellation. The stars forming the square are the stag, those 
in the arch the hunters, the first of these being a Tungus, the 
second a Yenesei Ostiak and the little star, Alcor, glimmering 
by his side, his kettle, the third a Russian. In addition, the 
three stars forming the forepart of the stag are also specially 
explained: one is the beast's nose, the other two its ears. 88 This 
same tale is known among the Tungus of that district and it is 
possible that even the following Yakut variant, which is said 
in different places to refer to different stars, e.g., to Orion, 
also belongs to the same series. The Yakut variant is as fol- 
lows: Once upon a time three Tungus chased a stag up into 
the sky, where they wandered long in hunger. In the end one 
of the hunters died, but the other two, together with the stag 
and the dog, were changed into stars (the stag-star) . M 

For the sake of comparison it may be mentioned that even 
the Indians of North America see an animal in the Great Bear, 
usually a bear, with three hunters at his heels. 87 

The Buriats call the seven stars of the Great Bear " seven 
old men." According to one tale they are the skulls of seven 
smiths. A hero once killed " seven blacksmiths " and pre- 
pared from their skulls seven cups, out of which he gave his 



wife to drink until she was intoxicated. When she had drunk 
she threw the cups into the sky, where they formed the seven 
stars of the Great Bear. All blacksmiths are said to be under 
the protection of these stars. 88 

The Mongols, who also call this constellation "the seven 
old men " or " the seven Burkhans," sacrificed milk and kumiss 
and even devoted some domestic animals to it. s9 

Very widespread is a tale in which the " seven old men " 
or the " seven Khans " as they are also called, are accused of 
theft. The Mongols tell that " the seven Burkhans " stole a 
star from the Pleiades, which numbered seven before but are 
now only six. This little stolen star (Alcor) is to be seen close 
to the central star of the arch of the Great Bear. With the 
Mongols it has developed into the god of thieves, to whom 
these always call on their predatory excursions to give luck 
in their wickedness.*" It is in order to be revenged on the 
Great Bear, so say the Altai Tatars, that the Pleiades pursue 
the " seven Khans " although they never overtake them.* 1 
The Kirghis also call the Great Bear " the seven thieves," and 
accuse them of having stolen one of the two daughters of the 
Pleiades. 42 In Northern Caucasia there is a tale of how a 
certain Khan left his child in the keeping of " seven brothers n 
and how they were already on their homeward journey when 
the Pleiades attacked them, wishing to kill the child, but the 
" seven brothers " succeeded in saving it.* 3 

The tales about the " seven brothers " and their " little 
sister " who was taken up into the sky, belong to the same 
series. That the " seven old men " of the Buriats also are 
originally robbers of a star-maiden appears from the following 
story, which has been recorded among them. There was once 
upon a time a poor man who received the gift of understand- 
ing the speech of birds. One day. when he was resting under 
a tree he heard two ravens discussing how to heal the son of a 
Khan who had long lain ill. On hearing the method agreed 
upon by the ravens, he at once hurried to the Khan and healed 


his son. Greatly thankful, the Khan presented him with seven 
steeds. On his homeward journey he met six men, each of 
whom attracted his attention in a peculiar way. The first was 
so strong that he could lift a mountain from the ground. The 
second had so keen a sense of hearing that he could tell what 
was happening under the earth. The third was an archer of 
such power that with his bow he could bring down a piece of 
the " heavenly mountain." The fourth was so clever with his 
hands that he easily transplanted the feathers from one kind 
of bird to another. The fifth was able to suck a whole river 
into his mouth and squirt it out again. The sixth was so 
nimble of foot that he outran a wild-goat on the prairie. These 
heroes now joined the poor man who understood the language 
of birds. Then the one who had the keen sense of hearing 
happened to hear how a certain Khan, wishing to choose a 
husband for his daughter, set all the suitors-elect three diffi- 
cult conditions to fulfill. The heroes, determining to try their 
luck, went to the Khan and asked him for his daughter's hand. 
Having easily fulfilled the most difficult tasks they took the 
maiden with them. The servants of the Khan pursued them, 
but the seven heroes escaped with their booty. In the end God 
took them up into the sky where they were changed into the 
Great Bear. The little star Alcor by the arch is the maiden 
whom they won. 44 The same story-motif would seem to have 
been known to the ancient Greeks also. They told how Elek- 
tra, one of the seven Pleiades, who is said to have been the an- 
cestress of the Trojans, took the fall of Troy so much to heart 
that she left her original place in the Pleiades. Hence, ac- 
cording to them, this constellation now has only six stars. 
Elektra is said to have moved to the Great Bear where she 
now glimmers as a little star beside the central star of the arch. 
It is possible that the ancient Greeks had mixed up two tales, 
viz., that of the robbing of the maid who caused the Trojan 
war, and that of the robbing of the star, belonging to an earlier 



As with the Great Bear, a hunting-myth is also connected 
with Orion. Once upon a time, according to the Buriats, there 
lived a famous archer who hunted " three stags " and was just 
about to overtake them when the animals suddenly, rose into 
the sky. The hunter had time, however, to send an arrow 
after them. The stags then suddenly changed into the three 
stars of Orion (" the three stags "), and a little lower down 
one can see the hunter's arrow as a star in the sky.** 

In the district of the Altai this tale has been taken down in 
various other forms also. The Teleuts tell of a hero named 
Kuguldei-Matyr who chased three stags on horseback. Hav- 
ing speeded to and fro over the earth in all directions without 
finding a resting-place, the animals at last sprang into the sky. 
But the hero followed at their heels, shooting at them with 
two arrows. His steed appears as a great star in the east, near 
the " three stags " (the belt of Orion), and there also are his 
two arrows, the one white, the other red. The latter, having 
passed through the bodies of the stags, is bloody. The hero 
himself has also become a large star.* 8 

Another tale tells how God cursed this hunter, who had in- 
tended to kill all the stags on the earth, and therefore changed 
the " three stags " into the belt of Orion, around which hunter, 
steed, hound and arrows now twinkle as stars. Some see in 
Orion, besides the stags, a hunter, a hound, a hunting-hawk and 
arrows. Some speak of two hounds. Hunters are said to 
worship this archer-hero and to pray to him for good luck in 
hunting. 47 

The Mongols also call the belt of Orion " the three stags." 
They see in addition, an archer, a horse, a hound and an arrow 
in this constellation.* 8 According to a Buriat tale this hero was 
born of a cow, and had a human head and a horse's body. 49 

The Kirghis see in the belt of Orion three deer, the sur- 
rounding stars being the " three hunters " and their " arrow." 


These hunters are said to have lived on the earth in former 
times, but as no animal could escape their well-aimed arrows 
God took the deer into the sky. 60 

The centaur of the Buriats brings into mind the ancient 
Greek tales in which Orion appears as a hero who was regarded 
as an exceedingly mighty hunter. The ancient Greeks be- 
lieved, like the Siberian Tatars, that this hero intended to de- 
stroy all the animals on the earth. " The hunt of Orion " 
was reflected in the sky, where the hunter had even a hound 
(Sirius) with him. 

The Yenisei Ostiaks call Orion " stag's head." Their ideas 
do not, however, appear to be connected with the series of 
myths just referred to. Thus they tell how this stag carried 
off a bride for the hero Alba. 51 For the Yenisei Ostiaks, Orion, 
and not the Great Bear, is the maiden-robber. Ideas corre- 
sponding to this are found among other peoples. 

Orion has also many names taken from objects. The most 
common o£ these are: "the scales" or "the hand-scales'* 
(Turkish, Kirghis, Tatar, Votiak, etc.) and (< the yoke " (for 
buckets) (Volga Tatar, Cheremiss, Vogul, etc.). 


We have mentioned before that some peoples imagine the 
Pleiades to be air holes, a ventilator, or a sieve through which 
streams a cold draught from the upper air. With others this 
constellation has suggested a group of animals. The most 
northern peoples of Siberia call it a bird's nest, or a duck's nest 
(Yakuts, Voguls, Koriaks, etc.). Some Central Asian peoples 
call the Pleiades " monkeys " {metshii) or " monkey " {met- 
shin). With this unexpected fancy, in a district where monkeys 
are unknown, stories are also connected. 

The Altai Tatars relate that in olden times Metshin lived 
upon the earth. It was then terribly cold on the earth, and for 
this reason the camel and the cow determined to kill him. 


Once, when he was hiding in the ashes of a log-fire and the 
camel had lifted his foot to crush him, the cow remarked: 
" Thy foot is too soft, let me try with my hard hoof." The 
camel stepped aside and let the cow stamp with its hoof into 
the ashes. Metshin was trodden in pieces, but through the 
cleft of the cow's hoof the pieces escaped and flew into the 
sky, where they now twinkle as six little stars. 62 

A variant of the tale is that as long as Metshin was on the 
earth it was exceedingly hot, but since the Pleiades rose into 
the sky the weather on the earth has grown colder. 63 

In connection with this tale, the Pleiades are mostly imagined 
to be a great insect. The Kirghis say that Urker was a great 
green insect that lived in the grass and ate cattle, especially 
sheep, for which it had a great liking. The camel and the 
cow grew angry and determined to kill it, but it escaped 
through the cleft of the cow's hoof into the sky. In the 
summer, when Urker cannot be seen in the sky, it is said to 
have come on the earth. If it alights in a watery district, the 
winter will be bad, but if in a dry spot, the Kirghis expect a 
good winter. 64 

In the district of the Altai the carrying-off of a star is con- 
nected with this tale. The Great Bear, which here appears as 
a mighty Khan, could not endure that Metshin should live on 
the earth as a great and wicked insect which ate up human 
beings and animals. Not knowing how he could destroy the 
monster, he asked his horse for advice. The horse replied: 
" I will crush him to powder with my hoof." The cow, hap- 
pening to hear this, hurried to the ice where the insect was 
resting and stamped it into pieces with her foot. When the 
pieces escaped through the hoof to the sky the Khan managed 
to catch only one which he took with him. Metshin, which is 
now bereft of one of its stars, ever angrily pursues the Great 

A belief that the Pleiades originally formed one star, which 
afterwards was parted into many pieces, is suggested by many 


of the tales connected with this constellation from different 
parts of the globe, in which some creature is crushed into 
pieces. The idea, also, that the Pleiades formerly consisted 
of seven stars but now number only six is comparatively 


Of the planets Solbon (Turco-Tatar, Tsholbon = Venus), 
which " can be seen in the morning and in the evening," plays 
in the tales of the Buriats a considerable part. This star is 
said to be a famous horse-lover, who rides over the sky lasso 
in hand. He has in his possession a great troop of horses, 
watched over by a horse-herd named Dogedoi or Toklok. The 
Buriats consider Solbon to be the patron-god of their own 
horses, ahd for this reason they pray to and worship him. In 
the spring, when they cut the manes and tails of their horses 
and set the mark of the owner on the colts, they prepare a 
sacrifice for SoJbon, cooking meat and cream-porridge (sata- 
mai) and making home-distilled spirits (tarasun) in his 
honour. The wine they throw into the air for Solbon and his 
groom Toklok, but the meat and the porridge they put into 
the fire. They then begin their own meal. In addition they 
have a custom of dedicating live horses to Solbon, as to many 
other gods, which horses are then no longer used in human 
service. 88 Georgi says the Buriats believe " that the gods 
and especially the shepherd-god Sulbundu (sic!) ride on 
these in the night when watching over the other horses, and 
for this reason they are believed to be covered with perspira- 
tion in the mornings." 6r Tales also tell how Solbon's groom 
teaches people to tend their horses well. Sometimes he in- 
forms them beforehand which persons will prosper with their 
horses during their lifetime. The Buriats regard as a good 
omen the birth of a colt in the autumn after Solbon has ap- 
peared in the sky, believing such a colt to become a very good 
horse afterwards.* 8 


A certain tale relates how once when Solbon travelled to the 
western sky, his groom Dogedoi left the horses untended for 
three days, going out for a walk with his dog Burto. On re- 
turning, the groom saw to his surprise that the wolves had 
scattered his horses and even devoured some of them. Just as 
he was about to gather them together Solbon returned from 
the western sky and seeing the disorder punished his groom 

It is easy to understand how Venus, as the morning and eve- 
ning star, should have suggested the idea of a shepherd tending 
the flocks of stars. As a ruler over the stars, this planet ap- 
pears also in the tales of the North American Indians. The 
Yenisei Ostiaks imagine Venus to be the oldest among the 
stars, and to guard them from dangers and watch that they 
do not disappear before their time. For this reason it is " first 
and last " in the sky. 60 Even the ancient Babylonians speak of 
the heavenly " sheep " that I star tended. 

But whence have the Mongols obtained their horseman and 
his groom? One might assume that this horse-loving nomad 
tribe had of itself begun to imagine the stars to be a great 
flock of horses. And yet the Indo-Iranian peoples also seem 
to have had the same idea. Probably, as Oldenberg says, the 
twin gods Asvin (" the horsemen ") of the Veda were origi- 
nally the morning and the evening stars. The gods Asvin were 
worshipped together with the god of dawn in the early, morn- 
ing and they are mentioned also as " the givers of horses." 

With this same star the Buriats connect a tale of the robbing 
of a bride. Solbon is said to have three wives, the third being 
a former Buriat girl, whom the hero carried off just as she 
was about to celebrate her wedding. Solbon descended to the 
earth, seized the girl, who was far-famed for her beauty, 
from the midst of the wedding-guests and took her with him 
to the sky. By his two first wives Solbon had no children, but 
the maid whom he carried off from the earth bore him a son. 81 

With the Yakuts Venus is feminine. They relate that she 


is a beautiful maiden whom Orgel (the Pleiades) loves. 
When these two meet in the sky it is a bad omen, foretelling 
storm and violent weather. 62 

The Kirghis say that " the Pleiades are the moon's son, and 
the evening star the moon's daughter." e3 


The imagination of the child of nature was early exercised 
also by the distant spectacle of the Milky Way. The most com- 
mon name for it in the Turco-Tatar languages is " the birds' 
way" (Turkoman, Kirghis, etc.) or "the wild ducks' way" 
(Volga-Tatar, Chuvash, Votiak and Cheremiss), to which the 
corresponding term in Finnish and Esthonian is " the birds' 
road " and in Lapp " the birds' stair " {lodderaiddaras). What 
the origin of this comparatively old name is, appears from the 
beliefs of the Ostiaks and the Voguls: these say that the Milky 
Way, which they also name " the ducks' road " or " the south- 
ern birds* road," is the guide of birds of passage in the night- 
time. The Esthonians explain the origin of this name in the 
same manner. a * 

Many other fancies have also been awakened by the Milky 
Way. We have already remarked that the Buriats and the 
Yakuts call it " the seam of the sky." The Samoyeds of the 
District of Turukhansk call it the " back of the sky." " These 
names evidently result from a conception of the sky as a kind 
o*f tent-roof. 

In some Buriat districts, as mentioned, a tale has been 
recorded in which the Milky Way is said to have come into 
being when Manzan-Gormo milked herself and then threw 
away the milk. 

In North-East Siberia the Milky Way is imagined to be a 
large river flowing across the sky. 69 This idea has perhaps its 
origin in China, where the idea of a " heavenly river " is also 
met with. Like the Japanese, the Koreans tell of two stars who 


loved one another and whom God, because they neglected their 
duties for the sake of their love, separated by placing the one 
in the uttermost east, the other in the uttermost west. In 
addition the broad heavenly, river flows between them. Once 
a year, in the seventh month, these lovers are said to meet, 
the birds building a bridge for them over the river. 67 

With the Caucasian Tatars, the Turks, and many of the 
Balkan peoples, a tale of Persian origin is connected with the 
Milky Way, the tale telling of a man who stole straw or hay, 
intending to hide his booty in the sky, but, as he journeyed, 
sprinkled so much on the way that his path can yet be traced 
in the sky. For this reason these stars are also called " the 
straw-thief's track." e8 

Names of later origin are the " pilgrims' way to Mecca " of 
the Mohammedan Tatars, and the " Burkhans' road " of the 
Mongols. The Yakuts call the Milky Way, " God's foot- 
prints." He is said to have walked across the sky in creating 
the earth.* 8 More common is " the ski-track of the son of 
God," " behind which name there is perhaps hidden some 
hunting-story like the one written down among the Ostiaks 
and the Voguls. When God (Numi-Torem), as the Voguls 
relate, had created the earth, he sent a six-footed stag upon it. 
An ordinary human being could not hunt this quick-footed 
animal, and so he begged the Forest spirit to pursue it. But 
even for this being, who glided at a terrific rate on his skis, 
it was not easy to overtake his six-legged prey. When at last 
he succeeded in killing the animal, which was so big that its 
body " reached over thirty rivers," the Forest spirit broke off 
the two additional feet, saying to his father Numi-Torem: 
" Change this animal with the power of thy word into a four- 
footed beast, as, seeing that the work of chasing and killing it 
has been difficult even for me, how should an ordinary human 
being have the strength necessary for it." This hunt was re- 
flected in the sky. The stag became the Great Bear, in which 
are to be seen the beast's head, its two eyes, its forefeet and 


hindfeet, and in addition the chopped-off stumps of the other 
two feet. The Milky, ,Way is " the ski-track of the Forest 
spirit." Even the Forest spirit's house can be seen in the sky in 
a shape which the Voguls call "the complete house of the 
Forest spirit," (i.e., the Pleiades). In this story also, the hero 
who attacks the Great Bear is from the Pleiades. 71 

The Ostiaks on the Irtysh River tell of a man named 
Tungk-Pok. who once when he was in the sky undertook to 
hunt this six-footed stag. Having chased it across the sky on 
his magic skis the hero overtook it at the mouth of the Irtysh, 
where the stag threw itself on to the earth. The hunter did 
not succeed in killing it, but could only cut off its two hind- 
most feet. He therefore declared: " Men will become more 
and more small and weak, how can they then overthrow a six- 
footed beast, which even for me is very difficult? May stags 
and other animals from this day onwards have only four 
feet! " The stag continued its flight towards the north until 
the hero again reached it near Obdorsk. The animal being 
then dead-tired, it begged God to save it from the hands of the 
hunter. God took pity on the stag and changed it into a great 
stone, but, as a memento of this heavenly chase, the Ostiaks 
see in the Milky Way two parallel ski-tracks (" the ski-track 
of Tungk-Pok " or " the way of Tungk-Pok ") and in the 
Great Bear a " stag." 

The Ostiaks of Vasyugan call this hunter " the son of the 
god of Heaven." " 


In connection with fancies relating to the stars it may be 
mentioned that the peoples of Central Asia divide time into 
periods of twelve, usually calling each of these units of time 
by the following animal names: mouse, cow, tiger, hare, 
dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog and sow." 
Images of these animals in relief can often be seen decorating 


the edges of the circular metal mirrors (toli) hanging with 
other magic objects on the costume of the shamans and used 
as instruments of sorcery. Other objects, also decorated with 
the same images, for reckoning time can be seen here, most 
of which have been brought 
from China where, as in other 
parts of East Asia, this method 
of keeping account of time still 
prevails. From the Chinese 
pictures it will be seen that the 
animal-images there are the 
same as those of the Mongols. 
Only the sign of the mouse is 
called a rat by the Chinese, and 
that of the hare a rabbit. Al- 
though these animal signs are Fic - '«■ Sicns op a Twelve-Divi- 
. , . • i i j-c sioned Period 

mainly the same with the dii- 

ferent peoples of Central Asia, their order varies somewhat. 
Thus the Eastern Soyots are said to reckon the years in the 
following order — dragon, tiger, cow, sow, monkey, mouse, 
dog, frog, snake, cock, horse and hare," 

The Buriats, who begin their twelve-year and twelve-month 
periods with the mouse, say that they really ought to begin with 
the camel, but that the camel has lost this honour. Light is 
thrown on the subject by the following tale. The camel and 
the mouse quarrelled over which of them should rule over the 
first year of a period or the first month of a year. In the end 
they decided to solve the dispute in such a way that the one 
who first saw the rays of the rising sun should call the year or 
month in question by his name. The camel took his stand 
looking towards the east, but the mouse climbed on his hump 
and from there watched the west. At dawn the camel's eye 
had not yet caught the sun when the mouse had already seen 
the reflection of its rays on the western mountains. For this 
reason the first year and also the first month of the year are 


called after the mouse. From this tale the Buriats have a 
proverb; " In believing himself great the camel lost a year." " 
Signs of animals representing a period of time divisible by 
twelve are already to be found side by side with the signs of 
the Zodiac on the marble tablets of the ancient Egyptians, 
found in the beginning of the last century. A period of twelve 
hours, which were represented by animal figures of the same 
description, was called Dodekaoros by the ancient Greeks. 
These pictures, which to some extent resemble the time-marks 
of the Mongols, are mentioned in the following order: cat, 
dog, snake, crab, ass, lion, goat, ox, hawk, monkey, ibis and 
crocodile. There can be no doubt that these time-marks, which, 
like the twelve-divisioned period itself, seem to have spread 
into East Asia from the west, are closely connected with the 
corresponding ideas of these civilized peoples. Later Greek 
texts call this method of reckoning time "Chaldean," which 
points to Babylonian astrology. The signs of the twelve- 
divisioned period are thus most probably explained by the 
twelve signs of the Zodiac. 


LIKE most of the North American Indian tribes, the 
peoples in the farthest north of Siberia imagine thunder 
to be something resembling a large and mighty bird. The 
Forest Tungus speak of it as such and explain that the rustle of 
this mighty bird's wings is heard on the 
earth, when it flies, as the terrific rumbling 
of thunder. The Tungus never offer up 
sacrifices to this being, nor do they wor- 
ship it in any other way, but when weav- 
ing a magic- spell they make a wooden 
image of a bird to represent it, fixing this 
outside their tent at the head of a long 
pole. The Thunder bird is believed to 
protect the soul of the shaman, who in 
his flight through the air may encounter 

many dangers. The shaman can even Fig. 17. The Tun- 
, , ~,. 1 1 • • ■ 1 • ■ cus Thunder-bird 

send the Ihunder bird against his enemies 
should he deem it necessary. The Tungus see a proof of the 
gigantic powers of this bird of the upper air in trees struck by 
lighting, which it has torn to shreds with its " claws of stone." r 
A similar conception of the nature of thunder is found 
among the Chukchee and all the primitive peoples of the Dis- 
trict of Turukhansk. The Eastern Samoyeds liken the 
Thunder bird to a duck, whose sneezing is the cause of rain. 
It is also imagined as the Iron bird, probably on account of the 
din it can create. 2 The Yurak Samoyeds of Northern Russia, 
who make themselves an image of thunder in the form of a 
goose, fancy, like the Tungus, that the Thunder bird attends 


and protects the soul of the shaman. A certain shaman is even 
said to have wandered two or three years in the air accompanied 
by this giant bird* The hero in a Yakut tale says: "Why 
should I not change myself into a bird and pretend to be the 
ruler of rain and thunder." * 

In the beliefs of the Tremyugan Ostiaks, thunder appears 
as a black bird resembling a grouse and screaming very loudly." 

The Mongol tribes, many Altai peoples, and some Eastern 
Tungus tribes, such as the Goldes, believe that the phenomenon 
of thunder is caused by a large flying dragon. The Mongols 
say that this dragon has wings and a body covered with fish 
scales. At times it lives in the water, at times flies in the air. 
When it moves in the sky the rumbling of thunder follows. 
In some places the rumbling is explained to be the dragon's 
voice and every movement of its tail to be a flash of lightning. 
It never comes sufficiently near to the earth for people to see 
it, and in the winter it hides in lofty mountains where the 
hoar-frost on the crags is caused by its breath. Others say that 
it winters in dense forests, over which a perpetual mist then 
hovers, and a third opinion is that it spends the winter in the 


The peoples of the Altai say that lightning and thunder 
follow when the dragon strikes two stones against each other, 
of which one is in its mouth, the other in its hand. It is also 
told that a certain Tengeri rides on the back of this monster, 
chasing a striped or flying squirrel. 7 The Tengeri desires to 
wreak vengeance on the squirrel, which, while in Heaven, tore 
out the eye of God's youngest son. It is dangerous during a 
thunder-storm to stand under a tree in which a squirrel is 
hiding, as the lightning always strikes such trees. This belief 
is also common among the Buriats. 8 The Goldes say that the 
dragon pursues evil spirits who will hide anywhere when a 
thunder-storm arises. 8 

This conception, in which the Creator of thunder is intro- 
duced in an exceedingly mythological shape, is not an original 


Altaic one, but, as its geographical area already denotes, comes 
from China. As we know, the Chinese and, following their 
example, the Japanese, imagined the Thunder god to have the 
shape of a peculiar dragon, which is represented in their art 
in many different ways. 

Both the above mentioned conceptions, the bird and the 
winged dragon, are evidently born of the swift movement of a 
thunder-storm and especially of the sudden flash of the light- 
ning. Even where human features are attributed to the 
Thunder god, he is oken regarded as a being with wings. The 
Ostiaks of Demyanka call him " the Winged old man." 10 

Among the Buriats a number of tales have been found 
relating how some human hero becomes transformed into a 
Thunder god by dressing himself in winged garments. One 
of these tales tells of a clever archer who came to heaven alive. 
On the earth he had had a wife and three sons with whom he 
lived happily until he became old. One day he told his sons 
that his days were numbered and asked them to prepare him 
a garment and saddle a horse. After wishing good-bye to 
his family he mounted the horse and departed. Coming to 
the meeting of three roads he chose the middle one, which led 
to the sky. There he arrived at an empty house where he was 
soon joined by four young men. These feasted the old man 
and asked him to remain there as guardian of that heavenly 
abode j at the same time they forbade him to open a chest which 
stood in the room or to put on a winged garment hanging on 
the wall. When he was alone, however, the man became so 
curious that he once opened the mystic chest and saw there 
strange, different-coloured stones shaped like arrow-points. 
Happening at the same time to turn his eyes to the earth, 
where at that moment a person was stealing vegetables from his 
neighbour's garden, he became so angry that he threw a red 
stone at the thief. A little later the four masters of the house 
returned home and scolded the old man for having set a whole 
village on fire because of one wicked man. Still later on, 


the old man conceived a desire to try on the winged clothes. 
When he had dressed himself in them he acquired a magic 
power of flying and thus he became the god of Thunder. 11 

There is another version of the same tale in a slightly dif- 
ferent form. A man who had lost his way while wandering in 
great forests came to a place where a flight of stairs led up from 
the earth to the sky. Ascending the stairs he arrived at a fine 
house glittering and shimmering with gold and silver, where 
the old god of Heaven, Esege-Malan-Tengeri, was sitting. 
Hearing how the man had come to Heaven, God was delighted 
and begged him to be his servant, the man consenting to his 
request. One day God urged him to look down and see how 
people were living on the earth. On doing so, he saw a man 
leading a sheep stolen from another's flock, and he became so 
angry that he seized one of the stones which God kept in a 
chest and threw it on the earth. Instantly, God sent him down 
after his stone, so that he could see it fall on the earth as a 
great flash of lightning that slew the thief. From that day he 
remained with the god of Heaven and served him as the 
Thunderer. 12 

Notwithstanding all these tales, which evidently belong to 
a world-wide group of myths, the Buriats have no clearly- 
defined, anthropomorphic god of Thunder. They often call 
the rumble of thunder " the song of heaven." 1S As they have 
now, as mentioned earlier, a great number of different Ten- 
geris, they cannot tell which of them is at the precise time the 
Thunderer. Therefore, when necessary, they consult a magi- 
cian, sometimes even nine shamans, who endeavour to find out 
which god, one belonging to the eastern or one belonging to the 
western group, is the raiser of the particular storm. One of 
the mightiest Thunder gods is Asan-Sagan-Tengeri, who fights 
evil spirits with his fiery arrow." 

The Yakuts, on the contrary, have quite a distinct Thunder 
god whom they call Ulu-Tojon (" Great Lord ") or Syga- 
Tojon (" Lord with the axe'*). Frequently he is only named 


" the Thunderer." According to one source " the Lord with 
the axe" lives in the eighth heaven. Other sources speak 
separately of the gods of Thunder and of Lightning. In such 
cases the Yakuts call the Thunderer " Bold Screamer " and the 
Lightning-maker " the Lord with the axe." Both are sup- 
posed to pursue demons and evil spirits. In order to rid 
their homes of the evil spirits which endeavour to hide 
themselves there when a thunder-storm threatens, the 
Yakuts smoke them out by burning pieces of a tree struck 
by lightning, crying at the same time: " The Bold Screamer 
shrieked, the Lord with the axe moved! Away, away! " They 
then throw the bits of wood far out on the meadow. Thunder- 
bolts, which the people believe they find in the earth, are 
treasured in the houses as important talismans against light- 
ning." The Goldes call old stone weapons found in the 
ground " thunder-axes." 1S 

The Yakut "Lord with the axe," who pursues demons, is 
most probably, like the corresponding figures in European 
myths, derived from the ancient civilized peoples of Asia. 

Of another origin also is the other conception of the god 
of Thunder, met with already among the Finns, according to 
which the Thunder god is a skilful archer. The Altai Tatars 
tell of a mighty hero whose bow is the rainbow and whose 
arrow the lightning. 17 In some Ostiak districts the rainbow is 
explained to be the Thunder god's bow and ancient stone 
weapons found in the ground his arrows, which he shoots in 
order to kill the Forest spirit hiding in the trees. 18 

Generally the peoples of the Altaic race do not speak of 
the rainbow as the Thunder god's weapon, nor do they call 
it the thunder-bow. Very common is the fancy that the 
rainbow is a kind of being that drinks water. The Tatars 
have probably transmitted this idea to the Yenisei Ostiaks, 
who call the rainbow: "The thunder drinks water." 19 
What this animated water-drinker, as the Votiaks also call it, 
really is, does not appear from the beliefs of the Turco-Tatar 


peoples. On the other hand the East European peoples, ac- 
cording to whom the rainbow sucks water from seas, lakes and 
rivers, sprinkling it anew on the earth as rain, imagine it to 
be a kind of giant snake. The Esthonians say that it has the 
head of an ox, which it lowers down to a river, emptying it 
of water. 20 Could this be the Vrtra or Ahi (" snake ") of the 
Veda, from whose power the Thunder god Indra releases the 

The Yakuts believe that the rainbow can also raise people 
from the ground. A tale relates how it once lifted up a girl 
in the District of Verchoyansk and set her down again near 
Irkutsk. 21 

Both the Yakuts and Buriats call the rainbow also " the 
urine of the she-fox." M The southern Tatar tribes have 
several names for it, such as " rainbelt," " the half -bow of the 
pot," "God's sword" (Caucasus). The Kirghis name, "the 
old woman's sheep-halter," is explained by the following tale: 
A certain man had two wives who were always quarrelling. 
The mother-in-law cursed the older, who had three sons, so 
that she fled to the heavens with her sons and her cattle, and 
now tethers her sheep to the rainbow." 

The conception of the rainbow as the weapon of the Thunder 
god seems thus to be quite local to Middle and Northern Asia, 
where it occurs sporadically. Another tale written down some- 
where in the district of the Altai belongs to a still more limited 
area. It tells of a camel moving in the sky with three persons 
on its back. The first beats a drum, whence the rumbling of 
thunder, the second waves a scarf, whence the lightning, the 
third pulls at the reins, causing water to run from the camel's 
mouth, whence the rain. 2 * In other places it is said that a great 
shaman beats a drum in the sky when it thunders. The latter 
opinion, though only occasionally met with, belongs naturally 
to Siberia, the land of shamanism. 

The Tatars, like many other of the peoples of the world, 
imagine the lightning, which for a moment draws a iivid, 



winding streak of light across the sky, to be a fiery snake fall- 
ing down from Heaven. 28 The same idea has been earlier met 
with in a Finnish poem on the origin of fire. 

The most northerly peoples of Siberia, with the exception of 
The Yakuts, do not sacrifice to the Thunder god. Some, e.g., 
the Yenisei Ostiaks, bid him during a storm pass by quietly 
without raising a tempest. Records of Thunder worship are 
found more among other Siberian peoples. Old Chinese 
chronicles relate that the Northern Uigurs fear the thunder, 
and cry out and shoot towards the sky at every crash. They 
then leave the place and separate. The following spring they 
assemble again at the spot where the lightning struck and 
slaughter a ram there. A certain Persian historian mentions 
that the Mongolians were greatly afraid of thunder and poured 
milk and kumiss on the ground, begging it not to hurt their 
dwellings or their cattle. It has been a custom with the Tatars 
of the Altai to assemble village by village on high mountains, 
when the first roll of thunder is heard in spring, and to sprinkle 
milk towards the four points of the sky. 28 

Special attention is awakened by the thunder when it hap- 
pens to kill a human being or a domestic animal. Such victims 
of the lightning are regarded as sacred and so too is the spot 
where the lightning has struck. According to the Buriats, 
people and animals slain by lightning must always be buried 
in the air upon a platform built on four posts. If the light- 
ning strikes a house, the house must at once be removed to 
another place, or certain rites, called " the raising," have to be 
observed, the intention of which is the sending of the thunder- 
bolt back into the sky. Unless this be done danger is be- 
lieved to threaten. These rites, which must take place on the 
third day after the thunder-storm, are conducted by a magician 
and his eight assistants, who ride on horseback three times 
round the dwelling in question, stopping before the door at 
every round. The magician has a branch of a silver-fir in 
his hand, the others a drinking-cup. While the magician re- 


peats a prayer his assistants sprinkle liquid from their cups. 
The most important of these rites seems to be the raising of a 
felt carpet spread before the tent, on which some article re- 
sembling or intended to represent a thunderbolt has been laid. 
" The raising," from which the ritual gets its name, is per- 
formed by the eight assistants. Finally, molten tin is dropped 
into a liquid to test by the shapes thus obtained whether the 
raising has been successful. If the tin, on falling into a basin 
containing wine or milk, forms into a single lump, the sign 
is favourable." 

Exceedingly strange is the fancy of the Buriats that the 
Tengeris who are mentioned as the senders of thunderbolts 
sometimes pour down from the sky urak (the " first-milk," 
differing in colour from other milk given by a cow after 
calving). Although many such Tengeris are mentioned, e.g., 
Khan-Budal-Tengeri, Urak-Sagan-Tengeri, Kharan-Budal- 
Tengeri {budal, " to let down "), of which the last mentioned 
is fancied to belong to the black, i.e., the eastern Tengeris, it 
is probable that all these names originally meant one and the 
same being. According to tales, the urak dropped down from 
the sky is a thick yellowish-white liquid. The person who re- 
ceives some of this " first milk " during a thunder-storm is 
deemed very fortunate and is believed to remain rich for ever. 
It is, however, an extremely rare event for a person to receive 
urak. When a Buriat perceives that he has been the recipient 
of special heavenly favour, urak appearing sometimes in his 
milk-foods, he turns to the magician, who witnesses the fact 
and examines from which Tengeri the urak has come. The 
liquid is then poured into a vessel made of birch-bark and 
placed on a high place, to prevent it from becoming defiled on 
the earth. The Buriats believe that the urak can rise into the 
sky again. According to the common custom, it must always, 
like a thunderbolt, be returned to heaven. 28 

This urak, which falls from the sky during a thunder-storm 
and must immediately be sacrificed to its sender again, reminds 


one of the Indo-Iranian tales about Haoma or Soma which an 
eagle brings down from the sky. The Soma, sometimes called 
" first milk " in the Rgveda, was originally the favourite drink 
of Indra, the god of Thunder. It provides the " Bearer of 
thunderbolts " with giant powers for his great deeds. Doubt- 
less, the eagle itself, which, according to tales, procured this 
drink for its master, was the bird of Indra. Compared with 
Indo-Iranian legends, the beliefs of the Buriats seem to repre- 
sent a more primitive standpoint. On the ground of these 
tales we may conjecture that the Indo-Iranians, like the peoples 
of Northern Siberia, orginally regarded thunder as a giant 
bird resembling an eagle. The fact that the liquid brought 
down from the sky by the Thunder bird is sacrificed to the 
Thunder god, may easily have given rise to an idea that there 
are two separate beings, of which the one brings and the other 
receives the Soma. 

In a Yakut tale about how the son of Ulu-Tojon fought 
with a giant, even the thunder-bolt seems to appear personi- 
fied. The tale begins with the description of a terrible storm 
and then goes on to relate how H suddenly pitch-black darkness 
covered the earth, a frightful roar, louder than the strongest 
peal of thunder, was heard, and at the same time a man three 
fathoms long, made half of fire, half of iron, came flying and 
twirling down in a mighty whirlwind. He sank over a yard 
deep into the earth, but bounced up again and stepped before 
the giant." 2fl 

That the Thunder god has not so prominent a place among 
the nomads, hunters, and fishers of Northern Siberia as in the 
mythology of the agricultural peoples of Nearer Asia, India 
and Europe is explained by the fact that the life of the farmers 
is in a much greater degree dependent on weather and rain. 
There are, it is true, even in the districts of the Altai, certain 
persons and even families, whose duty it is to bring about rain 
or drought as necessary, but these rainmakers (Jadatshy) do 
not seem to appeal to any special Thunder god, but to the god 


of Heaven in general (Kaira-Khan), or to sundry gods living 
at the springs of certain rivers, who are believed to cause rain. 
Extremely famous in this respect are Mordo-Khan and Abakan- 
Khan, who are said to live at the spring of the Abakan river. 30 
The Buriats also speak of a separate Rain-god, Khuran- 
Nojon ("the Lord of Rain "), who is believed to have nine 
water-barrels in heaven. When he opens only one of them, 
a three days' rain ensues. 81 There is no information, how- 
ever, as to whether this god has ever been worshipped with 



*¥Tf THERE did fire first appear to me, what is its purpose 
V V and its power, who has given it birth? " So cries in a 
Yakut tale a hero, supposed to be the ancestor of this tribe, 
arriving at last at the conclusion that fire is the son of Yryn- 
Ai-Tojon who sits on a milk-white throne to which three flights 
of silver stairs lead up. 1 The belief that the first fire came 
down from heaven is very common among the peoples of the 
Altaic race. 

Tales gathered from different peoples show the origin of 
this belief. The Tungus told me that the Thunder bird 
brought down fire from the sky to earth. A fire caused by 
lightning is considered sacred by them and they dare not put 
out a forest-fire which has been lighted from Heaven. Among 
the Yakuts also the fancy is most common that the Thunder 
god Ulu-Tojon gave people the first fire. 2 The Buriats call 
the god of Fire, who was also the first sender of fire, Galta- 
Ulan-Tengeri; he is further the god of heat and drought, who 
"dries up the growing grass to the roots and the running 
rivers with their springs," and the sender of the lightning, 
who sets on fire all that he strikes. 3 The Altai Tatars declare 
that mankind originally lived on vegetables and fruits and 
therefore neither needed fire nor missed it, but with the 
change in their manner of nourishing themselves fire became 
necessary for the preparing of food. It was then that Olgen 
took two stones, a white one and a black one, and struck them 
together so that the spark which flew from the sky to the earth 
set fire to the dry grass. From this man learned to strike 
fire.* Through the mouth of the Buriat shaman, fire declares 


itself to be " the middle son of the day-sky, the youngest son 
of the night-sky." * 

Certain other North Siberian peoples explain the origin of 
fire in the same way. The Ostiaks on the Yenisei give a more 
detailed account of how their ancestors received fire from 
lightning. The lightning kindled a tree, and some great 
shaman taught the people to make use of the fire. At first a 
great fire was kept burning, from which everyone could borrow 
a flame. Later on, fire-steel and tinder were placed beside it, 
and fire was thus transferred to these objects. 6 

In some tales about the origin of fire there figures also an 
inventor of fire, often an animal. In Buriat tales this wise 
animal is the porcupine, which has also in other ways already 
figured as an inventor. In the beginning, it is told, neither 
gods nor men could make fire, with one exception — the Porcu- 
pine, which was then a human being. One day a crowd had 
gathered round the Porcupine to hear the secret of fire-making. 
But the young maidens, seeing the strange shape of Porcupine, 
began to laugh, and this angered him so much that he decided 
to tell his secret only to his own wife, and even to her only 
against a promise of silence. But the hawk, whom the gods 
had sent out to steal his secret, happened to hear Porcupine 
explaining to his wife where flintstone was to be found and 
how steel could be made, with which two articles it was easy 
to strike fire, and the hawk told the secret to the gods. From 
these men learned the art of making fire. Later, the descen- 
dants of Porcupine became porcupines. 7 

In the tales of the Altai Tatars the frog advises Olgen, who 
is in perplexity as to where men could get the necessities for 
striking fire, that " the mountains contain stones and the birch 
tinder." 8 The Mongols say: " Iron is the father of fire and 
stone its mother." ' The above tales give thus two different 
explanations: fire has come down from heaven with the light- 
ning, or its spark has sprung from a stone. Both fancies are 
also met with in Finnish poems on the origin of fire. 

FIRE 451 

In Mongolian prayers, in which the birth of fire is related in 
many different ways, it is said that fire came from a tree or 
that it was born when in ancient times Heaven and Earth 
separated. 10 

Whether fires of different origin have been considered to be 
of unequal value does not appear from the sources at hand. 
Besides fire caused by lightning, which is esteemed holier than 
other fires, wood-fire or friction-fire has played an important 
part in the expelling of diseases. The Yakuts are said to have 
a custom, during an epidemic, of making a fire by rubbing two 
pieces of dry wood together, this sort of fire being supposed 
to have special protecting powers. The people, however, de- 
clare that they have learned this custom from the Russians, 
with whom epidemic diseases are also supposed to have come 
into their country. 11 The Tatars of Eastern Russia and the 
Chuvash also use friction-fire as a kind of purifying remedy 
during certain plagues either among people or cattle, and even 
at other times in the hot summer. On some previously fixed 
day the old fire in every home is put out and a great bonfire 
is lighted by friction outside the village. Over this the people 
spring in order to purify themselves and drive their cattle 
through it. Thus cleansed, each peasant carries a brand of 
" new fire n home. 12 

One might suppose this custom, known also to the Finno- 
Ugric peoples of the Volga, to have been learned from the 
Russians, as the Yakuts declare. But it appears from old 
sources that certain Turco-Tatar peoples already in ancient 
times used fire as a magic purifier. Byzantine Chronicles tell 
that when the messengers of the Emperor Justinian arrived at 
the court of the Turkish Great Khan at the springs of the 
Irtysh river, the Khan could not receive them until they had 
passed between two fires. The Tatars still observed this cus- 
tom at the time when the Russians paid taxes to them. All 
people, animals, or objects that in some way, e.g., by touching 
some dead body, had become unclean, were thus purified. 1 * 


Whatever the origin of these customs may have been, the 
mystic, and more especially the heavenly birth of fire, its 
wonderful power and the part which it plays in the domestic 
life of the most primitive peoples, resulted in the fact that 
fire in general is esteemed holy. Many, of the peoples of 
Central and Northern Asia have indeed worshipped fire. 

When worshipping the fire burning on the hearth the Mon- 
gols call it " Mother fire." According to their ideas the 
hearth is the sanctuary of the home and may on no account 
be desecrated. The Altaic tribes, the Kirghis, the Yakuts and 
other Turco-Tatar peoples also worshipped fire. The idea 
that fire must be kept pure and adored as a deity is common 
to all these and even to other North Siberian peoples. 
Nothing unclean or evil-smelling may be thrown into it, and 
nothing which could weaken its power or dim its brightness. 
For this reason it is wrong to spir into the fire or to extinguish 
it with water. It is also inadvisable to step over it unneces- 
sarily or to hurt it with any. sharp weapon. Piano Carpini 
tells how the Mongolians deemed it a sin to hew wood in the 
vicinity of a fire, or to take meat with a knife from a pot 
under which a fire was burning; still more to put the knife 
into the fire. The Yakuts believe that the fire, which " takes' 
as a gift the pine forest, consumes the damp wilderness, and 
spends the night in dry trees," understands speech and that it 
is therefore not well to scold or speak ill of it. 1 * 

Fire is believed to need nourishment as well as tender care. 
The pious master and mistress feed the fire on the hearth 
every time they begin a meal. The first morsels of food, the 
first spoonful of soup, the first cup of drink belong to the 
Fire god. Especially at family festivals must the fire on the 
hearth be remembered. A fire-sacrifice is a special part of 
the wedding rites with most peoples of the Altaic race. 1 * The 
Chuvash bride brings ashes or a fragment of stone from her 
parents' hearth to her new home, this custom doubtless express- 
ing the thought that the fire on the hearth is to go in heritage 

FIRE 453 

from parents to children." We have already seen that the 
Finno-Ugric peoples on the Volga observe rites akin to these. 
In worshipping the fire in their new home, a young Mongol 
couple sacrifice to it some yellow butter and a yellow-headed 
sheep. Yellow as well as red, in sacrifices to the Fire god, is 
intended to imitate the hue of the fire itself. The best sacri- 
fices are those which intensify the burning of the fire, viz., 
butter, lard, gin, etc. 17 

A certain wedding-prayer, said beside the hearth, to some 
degree explains the beliefs of the Mongols. It begins with 
the following words: "Mother Ut (Turco-Tatar word, 
" fire "), Mistress of the fire, descended from the elms on 
the tops of the Khangai-Khan and the Burkhatu-Khan moun- 
tains. Thou, who wast born when Heaven and Earth parted, 
who earnest forth from the foot-prints of Mother Otygen 
(" Mother earth "), thou creation of Tengeri-Khan. Mother 
Ut, thy father is the hard steel, thy, mother the flint, thy 
ancestors the elm- trees. Thy brightness reaches the heavens 
and spreads over the earth. Fire, struck by the Heaven- 
dweller, nursed by the Mistress Uluken. Goddess Ut, we 
offer thee yellow butter and a yellow-headed white sheep. 
Thine are this brave boy and the beautiful bride, the slender 
daughter. To thee, Mother Ut, who art always looking up- 
ward, we offer cups full of wine and handf uls of fat. Give 
luck to the son of the ruler (the bridegroom) and the daugh- 
ter of the ruler (the bride) and all the wedding-folk. For this 
we pray." 1S 

If fire is treated in an improper manner or left without food 
it is believed to take vengeance by sending a kind of skin- 
disease. In the worst case it burns the whole building. 

There is no doubting the fact that the peoples of the Altaic 
race worship fire in itself. " Mother " and other such words 
are only names for the fire itself. Because of its numerous 
flames the Altaic shaman calls it the " Thirty-headed mother, 
the Forty-headed virgin-mother." 19 In the prayers of the 


Chuvash there appears beside the " Mother fire " a " Father 
fire." The Yakuts and the Buriats also worship both a mascu- 
line and a feminine Fire god. The former name them " Old 
Man Ulakhany and Mistress Sabaga," the latter " Lord Sa- 
khadai and Mistress Sakhala." Poetic denominations are fur- 
ther " the White-bearded Lord " and " White-haired Lady " 
of the Yakuts. 80 

Most Central and North Asian peoples speak in addition of 
the Ruler or Master of fire, who, according to the Yakuts, 
" lives right in the flames." 21 What they imagine him to be 
like appears from their legends which tell that the master of 
fire " eats raw wood," that he has " an ashen bed " where " the 
pillow is a glowing coal and the coverlet fine ashes " and that 
" the smoke is his breath." 22 They believe, however, that the 
Master of fire can extricate himself from the fire and appear 
in human shape. The Yakuts say that in a home where he 
is often remembered with sacrifices, the Master of fire is fat 
and thriving, but the Fire god of a mean and parsimonious 
household is thin and withered/ 3 A Buriat legend relates how 
a man who had the power of seeing gods and understanding 
their speech once encountered two Masters of fire. One of 
them, though the god of a poor house, was well fed and 
dressed, but the other, the Fire master of a well-to-do house, 
looked very poor and wretched. The latter complained of 
having to live without food in the power of a mean master 
and mistress who at times even pierced his eyes by poking the 
fire with sharp irons. Because of this he threatened to punish 
his master, and very soon the grand house of the rich man 
was burnt down to the ground.** 

Such tales, in which the Fire gods of different homes con- 
verse together and tell each other of their life, are quite com- 
mon. In the tales of the Ugrian Ostiaks every hearth has its 
own " Fire maid," her outward appearance being said to show 
how the fire has been treated in that home. 25 Doubtless, these 
tales, some of which have been recorded even in Eastern 

FIRE 455 

Europe, originate from the conception that the fire on the 
hearth must be tended and fed like a living being. 

The Master of the fire may also appear to people before 
a disastrous fire or any other catastrophe which threatens the 
home. Then, also, the Fire god often takes on human shape. 
The Yakuts see him in the form of a " grey old man." 2e To 
a certain Buriat he appeared as a great, red, and therefore 
flame-coloured, man. 47 The Buriats even make themselves 
images of the Master of fire and keep them in a box near the 
hearth. In homes in the Balagansk District one may some- 
times see two human-shaped figures covered with red cloth, 
of which the one represents the " Master," the other the 
" Mistress " of the fire. Two glass beads form their eyes; 
the headdress, the hands and the hem of the garment are 
covered with black sheepskin. The " Mistress " has beads 
for nipples and a tin ornament on her breast. 28 The red and 
the black in the image of the Fire god represent the colours 
of the glowing coal and the soot. 

Besides the part played by fire in domestic life, most peoples 
of the Altaic race have given it another important duty to ful- 
fil — the conveying to the various gods of the sacrifices des- 
tined for each. Thus every offering which is put in the fire is 
not intended to pacify the fire itself. More especially when a 
sacrifice is intended for some god of the upper spheres is fire 
used as the medium. It is in this capacity of mediator between 
man and the gods that fire is considered the most sacred, and 
for this reason it is especially worshipped at sacrificial festivals. 
The Finnish peoples of Eastern Russia also have this concep- 
tion and the rites connected with it are met with among them. 

If finally we attempt to compare the beliefs and customs 
prevailing in the different districts peopled by the large Altaic 
race, we find that these have not developed equally, being 
richer and more various in some districts than in others. The 
Tungus of the primeval forests of North Siberia are the most 
backward in this respect. It is true that these also worship 


fire after a fashion, keeping it clean and refraining from hurt- 
ing it, but the offering up of sacrifices to the fire is not deemed 
so necessary by them as it is in Central Asiaj and its use in 
wedding rites, equally with the idea of fire as a conveyer of 
sacrifices, is uncommon. We are therefore led to think that 
the mighty and much adored Fire god of the other peoples 
related to the Turks has developed under foreign influence and 
if we further remember that the Indo-Iranian peoples from 
ancient times have been zealous fire-worshippers and that their 
beliefs and customs coincide exactly with those of the Central 
Asian tribes, we cannot be unaware from whom the peoples 
of the Altaic race have, at least in its more developed form, 
inherited their fire-worship. Seeing that the Mongols, who in 
their own language call the Fire god Galai-Khan (" Ruler of 
the fire ") , or, like their kinsfolk the Buriats, Gali-Edzin 
(" Master of the fire "), use in their prayers the Turco-Tatar 
name for fire, Ut, we can agree with Banzarov in his supposi- 
tion that the Mongols learned to worship fire from the Iranians 
through the Turkish tribes. 29 This Iranian influence can also 
be traced in the fire-worship of the Finno-Ugrians in their idea 
of fire as a mediator of sacrifices, which conception does not 
seem originally to have been general among the Ugrians or the 
peoples of the Altaic race. Even at the present day, side by 
side with the later sacrifices by fire we find the older custom, 
known almost solely among the Northern peoples, of giving 
sacrifices to the gods untouched. 


LIKE other phenomena of nature, the wind also was re- 
garded as animated. Following the points of the com- 
pass, the Central Asian peoples speak of four winds, which 
arise at the " four corners of the earth." * A stranger idea 
* is that the mountains are the home of the wind. The Yakuts 

say the winds " sleep w on the mountains, whence they can be 
? called when needed by whistling. 2 The Yakuts and the 

j Lamutes are said to have avoided loud conversation when pass- 

j ing by a high mountain, in order that the " Master " of the 

I mountain might not become incensed and send a storm to 

! hinder their journey. 3 The Goldes believe the winds to come 

from caves in the mountains, where the Wind spirit holds them 
' captive. A shaman can persuade this spirit either to open 

' these chasms, or keep them closed, according to whether wind 

\ is needed or not.* The Mongols call storms " running-days," 

i as they, believe the Mountain spirit runs from mountain to 

;. mountain during these times. 6 

{ Elsewhere than in Siberia, this belief is met with in moun- 

I tainous districts, having probably its origin in observations made 

i from nature. The Lapps also believe windy and stormy 

i weather to arise out of the chasms in the fells. A certain fell 

at Inari is called Piegga-oaivi (" wind fell "). Possibly, also, 
the Finnish " birth of the wind " originates from the same 
idea, the wind being said in this poem to have been born 
" between two rocks." e 

Among the Southern Turkish peoples a mythical idea of a 
grey bull has been recorded, the breath of which gives birth 


to the wind. 7 The majority of peoples believe some spirit 
to wander in the whirlwind. 

Differing from ordinary, winds, according to the Buriats, is 
the Zada, which has its own spirit, Zada-Sagan-Tengeri. By 
Zada they mean a short, intermittent wind, occurring several 
times on the same day. Often, it brings with it rain or snow. 
Generally, the Zada blows in the spring and the autumn. 
Zada-weather may be brought about by men with the help of 
a certain root, the Buriats believing that if one of these roots 
is pulled or dug up out of the ground, the weather will begin 
to change rapidly. Certain hunters, to whom this magic 
method is known, make Zada assist them in their hunting. 
Certain birds, also, such as hawks and swans, are said to know 
the properties of the said root and to conjure forth a so-called 
" bird-Zada " when migrating southward in the autumn. 
Similarly, some of the bigger inhabitants of the forest, notably 
the deer and the fawn, use this means for their own benefit 
(" deer-Zada ")■ It may also be brought about by the help 
of a special red stone, called " Zadan-ulan-shulun " by. the 
Buriats. Further, Zada is sometimes born when a thunderbolt 
falls into the water, when nine days of this wind follow. 8 

This peculiar belief, met with also among the Kalmucks 
and the Turkomans, has spread to the Yakuts. They say that 
among the entrails of an animal a stone is sometimes found, 
which possesses the magic power, if taken into the yard on a 
calm summer day, of awakening a cold and severe wind. 
These stones the Yakuts call Sata (=Buriat Zada).' 


THE ALTAIC peoples early regarded the earth as being 
an animated, conscious and comprehending being. Even 
now the Central Asian peoples are afraid of being punished 
if they offend the earth. According to the Soyots the digging 
or the wounding of the earth with sharp instruments is a great 
sin. 1 The Altai Tatars declare the pulling up of plants out 
of the earth to be as improper as the pulling out of the hair or 
beard of a human being would be. 2 With ideas such as these, 
it is not to be wondered at that the nomads did not look with 
a favourable, eye on the pioneers of agriculture. The agri- 
culturist Cain, according to the Semites, was also less pleasing 
to God than the nomad Abel. Similar ideas were held, fur- 
ther, by the American Indians when the first whites penetrated 
into their territory. 

As the producer of vegetation, etc., the earth was regarded 
as a female being. As the sky, which renders the earth fruit- 
ful, was called " the Father," the earth, which gives birth, was 
called " Mother." Already in the Orkhon stone inscriptions 
it is written: <( The sky above is our father, the earth beneath 
is our mother, man is the child of both." In the ancient tales 
of the Mongols, the " Blue sky " and the " Brown earth " are 
two of the chief deities.* The Yakuts believe that the " Earth 
mother," also called " Mistress " (An-Darkhan-Khotun or 
An-Alai-Khotun) acts both as the producer of vegetation and 
as the birth-giver of children. 4 The Tungus lay to the merit 
of the earth, as Georgi points out, " all that it brings forth." B 
The Mongols say that the sky gives life to beings, but that the 
earth gives them their form. 8 Thus the Earth mother becomes 


also the deity of child-birth. As is well known, the ancient 
peoples of Asia had this same idea. 

Concerning sacrifices to the earth there exist very old re- 
ports. The Chronicles of the Chinese relate that the Hunnu 
and Tukiu peoples sacrificed to the earth. 7 Marco Polo tells 
us that the chief object of Mongolian worship was the Earth 
god Natigai, to whom milk, kumiss and tea were sacrificed. 
When sacrificing, the people prayed to this deity for fruitful- 
ness. The name Natigai mentioned by Marco Polo is prob- 
ably a corrupted form of the name Otukan, which appears in 
the Orkhon inscriptions as meaning the country of the old 
Turks, worshipped by them as a special deity. 8 

Even to-day the agricultural peoples, such as the Buriats, 
Tatars and Chuvashes, sacrifice to the Earth goddess. Gen- 
erally, earth worship would seem to have gained in importance 
in places where agriculture had obtained foothold. The 
Buriats offer up a blood-sacrifice to the Earth spirit in the 
autumn when field-work is over. 9 The Chuvashes, like the 
Volga Finns, sacrificed black, " earth-coloured " animals to the 
Earth mother at their agricultural festivals. The most North- 
ern Siberian peoples, however, such as the Tungus, do not 
see the necessity of sacrificing to the earth, as in the life of this 
hunting and fishing people the earth has not the same nourish- 
ing value as among these others. 

Doubtless the earth as such was worshipped, as the Mongol 
prayer-name " Brown earth " shows. Illuminative are also 
the following words in the Yakut sacrifice ceremonies: "Ruler 
of vegetation (literally 'grass-tree'), earth moisture, eat, en- 
joy (Ot-mos itsitd, sir-daidy siga t asm, sian)." 10 Later, the 
imagination of the people, especially in tales, created certain 
anthropomorphic features for the Earth mother. Chuvash 
fancy created an Earth old man to accompany, the Earth 
mother." The Buriats imagine the spirit of the earth as a 
whole (Daida-Delkhe-Edzhin) to be an old grey-bearded man, 
and his wife a white-haired old woman. 11 Generally, it seems 


to have been exceedingly difficult to give anthropomorphic 
features to the Earth mother. 

The agricultural Chuvashes, when a field has lost its pro- 
ductive powers, carry out special ceremonies, called " The 
stealing of earth." The intention of these ceremonies is to 
procure productive earth from a field owned by someone else, 
in which the grain flourishes. A living a suitor " is chosen for 
the Earth mother, and arrayed precisely as for a real courtship; 
this suitor goes out to seek a bride. The suitor has to be young 
and strongly-built, as a marriage with the Earth mother, 
according to the Chuvashes, is so exhausting that in spite of his 
staying powers, the bridegroom hardly ever lives to a ripe old 
age. Although the wedding procession sets off with much 
jingling of bells and singing of wedding-songs and music, the 
participants all quiet down as the place whence the bride has 
to be fetched is reached. In the silence of the night the pro- 
cession drives into the field, where the bridegroom, sitting in 
the first wagon, is lifted to the ground. The oldest man in the 
procession now acts as the agent for the bridegroom, saying, 
with glance fixed on the earth : " We have come to thee, rich 
and dear bride, with a young and beautiful bridegroom. We 
know that thy. riches are endless, but undescribable is also the 
burning love of our bridegroom for thee." At this, the bride- 
groom bows down to the ground. The agent goes on : " Do 
thou also, dear bride, love our bridegroom, and refuse not to 
comply with our request." The bridegroom bows again. 
" Take with thee, dear bride, all thy property from the fields 
and meadows, the forests and rivers." After further deep 
bows, shovelsf ul of earth are lifted into all the wagons. The 
bridegroom is lifted into the first vehicle. When at last, with 
singing and music, clapping of hands and cries of delight, the 
home-village Is reached, the "bridegroom," with a spade in 
his hand, goes first to his own and then to the other vehicles 
to welcome his " bride," saying: " Be welcome, my dear bride, 
I love thee more than gold, more, even, than my life. For 


the sake of my, love, spread out thy property on our fields and 
pastures, our forests and rivers." Having said this, he takes 
earth from all the waggons with his spade, which also the 
other participants in the ceremony carry to their patches of 

Relics of similar weddings for the amusement and the en- 
ticing of the Earth mother, ceremonies alien to the nomad- 
culture of the Altaic peoples, are met with among certain 
other agricultural peoples. The " bridegroom " of the Earth 
mother is mentioned also in old Finnish poems. 

Another Earth deity of whose origin there can be no doubt, 
is the Jar-Sub (" Land-water '*) mentioned already in the 
Qrkhon inscriptions." "From the oldest times," say the 
Teleuts, " we have worshipped our Land- water and our Sky." 1B 
The " Land- water spirit " (Sir-syv-Kudegen or -Kten) ap- 
pears also in the list of deities of the Chuvashes side by side 
with the "Earth mother" and « Earth father." 16 The 
" Man of Land-water " is also known among the Voguls." 
" Land and water " as a name for one's fatherland may, how- 
ever, be originally an Iranian phrase. As Vambery points out, 
the Persians are still in the habit of saying, for example, 
ab-i-chak-i Isfahan (" Isfahan's district," literally " Land and 
water of Isfahan."). 18 It is therefore easy to understand 
what Xerxes meant in demanding from the Greeks, as a sign 
of submission, " land and water." 


CONNECTED with the animating of natural objects and 
phenomena among the Altaic race, there is a conception 
that a " soul," corresponding to the soul of man, lies hidden 
within them, the name given to this being the same as that for 
the human soul. Thus, the Altai Tatars use the word k«t t 
which appears in many Turco-Tatar languages, as signifying 
the soul of both human beings and natural objects. Just as 
the kut of the former leaves its dwelling for one reason or an- 
other, causing decline and sickness, so the earth, a tree, etc., 
wither when their kut leaves them. When expressing the fact 
that a field has lost its fertility, the people say: " The ground 
has lost its kut " (jer kudun pardy.) Similarly, the kut of a 
dwelling-place may depart, taking with it the feeling of home- 
liness. In cases like this last, kut is often translated as mean- 
ing " happiness," " health,*' " homeliness," etc. 1 A word with 
a similar signification in the Turco-Tatar language is siir 
("appearance," "beauty," "comfort," "power," "soul"), 
used when speaking of the human soul, the haunting spirit of 
the dead, the health of cattle, the power of an army, the 
nourishing properties of bread, etc. Thus, for example, it is 
said that " when an army loses its stir, it cannot defeat its 
enemy." When food has lost its nourishing power, it is said 
that " its silt has departed." A soul of this description is be- 
lieved to animate and to govern all the phenomena of nature 
and its parts, and thus a conception arises that these invisible 
souls, to use the words of M. A. Castren, are " in respect of 
all visible nature, in a position of power resembling that of a 
master towards his property." s 


That the metaphor " Master " used by Castren is correct, is 
best proved by, the names of like signification given by the 
peoples of the Altaic race to the invisible Nature gods. 
" Master," " Lord," or " Ruler " is expressed in the different 
Tatar dialects by the words Ea or Oja, in Chuvash Hoza, 
Yakut Itshi and Buriat Edzhi. An invisible Ruler of this 
description is to be found in the sky and its phenomena, the 
stars, fire, land and forest, trees and grass, rivers and lakes, 
mountains and rocks, the different animals, and even in objects 
made by man, buildings, weapons, tools, vessels, etc. Espe- 
cially in sharp or " living " weapons, with which it is easy to 
harm oneself, such as knives or axes, do the Yakuts see a Ruler 
(Itshi), and similarly in objects capable of motion, such as a 
spinning-wheel, or of noise, such as a magic drum or a musical 
instrument. The Yakuts even speak of a Ruler in the bundle 
of birch-branches with which they beat themselves in their 
baths. 8 The trade of blacksmith is held in great respect by 
both Yakuts and Buriats, and a Ruler is believed to dwell in 
all the tools needed for this work. Troscanskiy points out 
that each blacksmith's tool not bought from the Russians has 
its Itshi: the anvil and striking-hammer have theirs in common, 
the tongs and the forge have each their own, but the " Head- 
Itshi " is in the bellows. 4 Pripuzov speaks of a special tutelary 
genius of blacksmiths, called Kudai-Bakshy by the Yakuts, and 
whose dwelling-place is in the underworld. The smiths 
slaughter a brown cow in its honour and anoint themselves and 
their tools with the animal's blood, but the heart and the liver 
they roast in the forge and place them on the anvil, where 
they are beaten until nothing remains of them. 6 

The Buriats of the Balagan District worship a deity of 
blacksmiths called Boshintoi, with nine .sons and one daugh- 
ter, who are said to have taught the blacksmith's craft to men. 
In sacrificing to these, the smiths pour kumiss and other sacri- 
ficial liquids on to the glowing forge. A lamb is also some- 
times slaughtered to them. Iron images are made of the 


aforesaid sons and the daughter, each with some blacksmith's 
tool in its hand, a hammer, tongs, an anvil, bellows, charcoal, 
etc. , these are called the corresponding " Masters " of these 

The Master of a musical instrument (Khuri Edzhin) is said 
by the Buriats to teach people to become skilful musicians. 
The neophyte has to go out on a moonless night to the junction 
of three roads and there sit down on the skull of a horse fitted 
with silken reins. At midnight the skull is said to try to 
unseat its rider. Should the latter fall he loses his life, but 
if, being on his guard, he remains seated and continues to play, 
he becomes a very skilful player/ 

Most often, the said " Masters w are believed to dwell in 
the phenomena or objects they represent, the Master of fire 
in the fire, the Master of water in the water, the Master of a 
tree in the tree, etc., although at times they can separate from 
these. How close the connection between these Masters and 
their visible incarnations has actually been, appears from the 
habit of making images of the Masters of the sun and moon 
in the shape of these heavenly bodies. The Masters of ani- 
mals appear to men in the shape of the respective animals. 
The Tungus make an image of the reindeer to represent the 
Reindeer's Master, and similarly certain North-East Siberian 
tribes make an image of a fish to represent the Fish Master. 
The Buriats speak of a Master-tree, which is recognized by 
the fact that its pith is blood-red ; the tree is thus the body of 
the Master dwelling in it, from which, as from a human body, 
the blood can run. 8 This conception of Masters animating 
nature is not confined only to the Altaic race, but the same 
belief is met with among other Siberian peoples, the Yukagirs, 
the Chukchee, etc. 9 

The anthropomorphism of certain Masters, such as those 
of dwelling-places, forests and water would seem to have been 
helped by the spirits of the dead, who are said to dwell in 
these places. Often the dead can be seen to have become 


directly assimilated into these Masters. Thus the Master of 
the Yakut dwelling-place (Balagan Itshita) sometimes appears 
in the shape of former dwellers in the place. Middendorff 
says that the oldest inhabitant becomes after his death the 
Master of a home. 10 The ancient Finns had the same belief. 
The Masters of forests and water are also said by the people 
to have originated in the spirits of those lost or drowned 
there. Buriat tales relate how a hunter was once lost in the 
forest, dying finally there of hunger, and how this unfor- 
tunate man became the Forest Master. 11 Similar tales are 
told of the origin of the Water Master. These tales make 
clear why the Masters of forests and water seek the company 
of men, and in tales aspire to marriage and other ties with 
them. We must not, however, from tales like those described, 
draw the conclusion that the Masters of natural phenomena 
and objects are generally the spirits of the dead. 

The trees of the forest itself are imaged in the conception 
which causes the Master of the forest to be seen as a being 
of the height of a tree. As in Europe, this conception is 
general among the Asiatic peoples. The Mongols' Khan of 
the forest and of forest animals (Mani-Khan) is a being like 
a man of more than ordinary size. 12 A long, dark, human-like 
being is also the Forest Master of the Buriats, who halloes 
and weeps in the forest, leads wanderers astray, but gives also 
game to the hunter." The large-sized Forest Master of the 
Tungus can at times take on the shape of a strange rock, 
resembling a man or an animal, the forest dwellers fearing to 
approach such rocks. A similar spirit is the Yakut Bajanai, 
who, as the owner of the valuable game of the forests, is 
called " rich," Bai-Bajanai. As the Master of forest animals 
it is also conceived as shaped like an animal. In the latter 
shape it has been seen by hunters and gatherers of berries. 
Sometimes, it is of the size of a year-old calf, with the muzzle 
of a dog, little moist eyes, long whiskers, a grey coat and 
forked hoofs. In some districts the Forest Master is said to 


have two sons, one living in the depths of the primeval forests 
and giving valuable game to the hunter, such as sable foxes, 
blue foxes, etc., the other dwelling on heaths and giving brown 
foxes, squirrels, and other animals o£ smaller value." 

Many North Siberian tribes, for whom hunting is an im- 
portant means of subsistence, have a habit, at the beginning 
of the autumn hunting season, of sacrificing a part of the first 
" bag " to the Forest Master. The Yakuts are even said to 
have sacrificed black bulls to Bajanai. In sacrificing, the 
Tungus, the Yakuts, and other northern peoples make an 
image of the Forest Master, either by carving human features 
on the trunk of a living tree or by shaping a billet of wood 
roughly into a human-like shape. The mouth of the image 
is smeared with the blood of the sacrifice. At each sacrifice, 
a new image is made. 15 

Comparing the Yakut Forest Master with the corresponding 
Russian spirit, Serosevskiy points out that beliefs brought by 
the Russians have become connected with the former. Ac- 
cording to his view, the Yakuts did not originally possess a 
single spirit, comprising all forests, but each forest and thicket, 
each separate tree even, had its own Master. 18 It is also 
related of the Buriats, that they do not beg for game from 
one general Forest spirit, but separately, from each local 
Forest Master. 

Among the European Tatars and Chuvashes the Forest 
spirit has already received a strictly defined appearance, which 
proves a more developed, more stable plane of thought. Here 
the Forest Master, corresponding to Russian spirits, is chiefly 
an evil being, which is seldom worshipped. In this respect 
it differs from the Forest spirits of the most northern primeval 
forests of Siberia. 

The evil Shurale of the Volga Tatars, which can increase or 
diminish its height, has exceedingly large nipples on its 
breasts, and kills its victims by tickling them, we have already 
met with among the Volga Finns. 17 


A corresponding evil Forest spirit is the Chuvash Obyda, 
which wanders in the forest as a human being, but naked, long- 
haired, with large nipples, and with feet turned in the wrong 
direction. Having caused a man to lose his way, it tickles or 
dances its victim to death. The poor animal on whose back 
Obyda seats himself begins to run backward. According to 
folk-tales this spirit itself wanders backwards. The evil Forest 
spirit is also called the " Half-human " (Ar-sori) by the 
Chuvash. 18 Possibly this name signifies a being known also 
to the Vbtiaks, which has only half of a human body, viz., one 
eye, one arm, and one leg. The Yakuts speak also of an evil 
being with the same name, declaring it to live in an icy, mound 
with a door-opening at the top. 10 

Worse than Shurale is the Tatar Albasta, which they believe 
to dwell in desert spaces, bogs and chasms. This also is human 
in shape but takes on the form of many objects belonging to 
the forests or fields. It is said to kill people by suffocating 
them.* The Kirghis imagine Albasta as a great woman, with 
a large head, and breasts reaching to the knee. She has long 
and sharp nails on her fingers. The Kirghis believe her to 
attack chiefly women who are enceinte, killing her victims by 
suffocation. They relate tales of how a certain Kirghis once 
saw her rinsing in a brook the lungs of a woman, whom she 
had deprived of these. 21 

Like the Forest Master, the Steppe Master also tries to 
lead travellers astray. The Mongols say that the Steppe 
Master Albin lights will-o^-the-wisps by the wayside. When 
the traveller, believing these to be the lights of dwellings, 
steps aside from the road, he finds that he has been deceived 
by Albin, who wishes him to lose his way." 

To the Forest spirits, the spirits of the forest animals are 
closely related. The latter, and even each species of animal, 
have, as has been said, their Masters or Khans, whom it is not 
always easy to separate from the respective animals. Sacri- 
fices are even made to these Masters. The Tungus sacrifice 


to the Mammoth Master in order to find mammoth's teeth. 
The Reindeer Master is said to have received blood-sacrifices. 
Especially do the people fear to offend the Bear Master, for 
which reason this animal must not be called by its proper name. 
Women are afraid to touch bear-flesh with their naked hands 
and even the men have to treat the carcase of the bear with 
due respect, its skeleton being preserved on an erection of wood 
or branches, or, at least, its skull having to be hung up in a 
tree. 23 

The peoples living on the banks of rivers or lakes speak 
also of the Water Master. Each river, each lake, and each 
water has its Master, say the Yakuts. Most often this is 
imagined to be an anthropomorphic being, although it can also 
take on other shapes. The fishers of North Siberia sacrifice 
to it at the beginning of the fishing season in the spring. The 
Yakuts are said to have then offered up, through the agency 
of their shamans, a black bull, in order that the water-spirit 
(Ukulan Tojon) might give fish in plenty. More often, fish 
is sacrificed to the Water Master, sometimes also bread, salt or 
gin. 2 * The Yenisei Ostiaks, who as a river and fisher people 
are dependent in a great degree on the bounty of the water, 
make images of the Water spirit. 2 * 

Although the spirits of the northern waters of Siberia are 
anthropomorphic beings, whom the shaman can visit and who 
choose wives and servants for themselves, from those drowned 
in the water, they have yet no strictly defined, unchangeable 
features. In many districts, however, the Russian Water 
spirit and Rusalka, as among the Volga Turks, have had time 
to settle in the rivers and lakes of Siberia. Especially among 
the Yakuts does one meet with purely Russian ideas. They 
believe the Water spirits to rise on to the land in the time 
between New Year's Eve and Twelfth Night, when they 
wander along the roads, bearing on the backs of oxen their 
small children, of whom the Water spirits have many. While 
wandering from place to place the Water spirits make different 


noises, the people gathering to listen to these at cross-roads, 
openings in the ice, and near deserted huts. From what they 
hear, they decide on the events of the ensuing year. 26 

As we have seen earlier, the Russians also believe the Water 
spirits to wander on land at Christmas-time, until Twelfth 
Night, when according to the Orthodox Church ceremonies 
the Cross is lowered into the water, and they then return to 
their homes. Probably, therefore, the belief in the wandering 
abroad of the spirits of the drowned at Christmas-time has 
reached the Yakuts together with these holy-days themselves. 

Over a large area in Central and Northern Asia a belief 
has been recorded, that in the lakes a bull dwells, which begins 
to roar before a storm or any other great event. When on 
frosty nights the ice begins to crack and rise, the water-bull is 
said to be breaking it. 1T Like the East European peoples, the 
Yakuts and Yukagirs celebrate the departing of the ice with a 
special ceremony. At such times they sacrifice food to the 
water, sometimes firing their guns. With their offerings they 
try to appease the Mother or Old Woman, as they call the 
stream, that it may refrain from doing damage to their lands 
during the spring floods. 28 

Once the belief in Nature spirits has originated, the number 
of these may easily become legion. Wherever a human being 
moves, some spirit accompanies him. Should an accident occur 
on a journey, e.g., a horse take fright or a cart break down, 
the Yakuts believe the Master of the spot to have occasioned 
the misfortune.* 9 Especially in places traversed with difficulty, 
where the road runs along a steep mountain-ridge or precipi- 
tous pass, something, a piece of cloth or wool or a hair of the 
horse, is sacrificed to the Master of the place. The Mongols, 
Altai Tatars, etc., when crossing over a mountain, are in the 
habit of placing a stone at a certain spot, so that great heaps of 
stones {obo, " heap ") have accumulated at such places. 80 
Similarly, on journeys by water, the Siberian peoples, after 
safely passing a difficult stretch of water, offer up some small 


sacrifice. On the Yenisei River, the author has even heard 
Russians speak of " the boiling of porridge " when a danger- 
ous, swift rapid was being passed with great difficulty, the 
place being called the " bull " by the rowers. To deceive 
the Master of the place, the Yakuts, when making long jour- 
neys, speak in a secret language, in which the words have 
meanings differing from those of their everyday use, like the 
hunters and fishers, who also on their expeditions twist the 
significations of their words. 81 


NATURAL causes of dreams, sickness and death, as with 
most of the peoples of the earth, were unknown to the 
Altaic race. The most usual idea is that man, in these states, 
has lost his "shadow." Of the varied souls that are com- 
monly believed to be contained in man, it is just this " shadow " 
(Altai Tatar kut, sur and suna, Mongol Buriat sun'dsun } Yakut 
kutj etc.), which is the most important in myths. 

A " shadow-soul " of this description, as already mentioned, 
is owned also by animals, plants and lifeless objects. 

The close connection between this soul and the shadow ap- 
pears, e.g., from the idea that when a human being loses his 
soul, he loses also his shadow. According to the Yakuts men 
have three shadows} when all of these have disappeared, the 
one who loses them dies. Spirits are said to be beings without 
shadows. 1 

That the shadow-soul is received by a child at its birth from 
outside would seem to be a general belief. The idea of the 
Yenisei Ostiaks that all human beings born into the world re- 
ceive, instead of new souls (ulvei, " shadow," " reflection in 
water "), such souls as have existed before, is enlightening 
in this respect. The shadow-soul is said to enter the sexual 
organs of a woman with child a little before confinement; the 
other life-spirits, on the other hand, which are believed to 
dwell in the heart, head, etc., are received by the child in the 
womb through its mother's food. From the moment of entry 
of the shadow-soul, birth pangs begin, as the soul (ulvei) is 
uncomfortable in the womb, where it is hot and suffocating. 
During life this shadow-soul is the faithful companion of man. 


The Yenisei Ostiaks, like the Yakuts and Buriats, imagine 
it to be a little being which can be seen more especially by 
shamans. 3 

Among the Buriats, this belief in a previous existence of 
souls appears in a more developed form, of Indian origin. 
They explain that when the Tengeris lay themselves down to 
sleep (a slumber that may sometimes last a hundred years), 
their souls appear on the earth and are born here as human 
beings. If the soul of a Tengeri comes down a long time 
after the god has slept, the person within whom the soul has 
taken up its abode soon dies, as the soul has to return to its 
owner in heaven before the latter awakens from his sleep. 
Where the soul of the Tengeri comes down soon after its 
owner has fallen asleep, the person in question lives to old 
age. 3 

As has been said, the shadow-soul of a human being can 
leave its dwelling-place during life. In dreams it wanders 
unfettered by material means, visits distant places, strange 
races, passes through locked doors, and even keeps company 
with deceased companions. The Buriats say that what the 
soul has seen or heard during its journeys, remains in its 
memory, so that a person, when the soul has returned and 
awakened its owner, can relate to others the experiences of his 
soul. Dreams are thus believed to be actual truths, and for 
this reason are regarded as important. 4 But the wandering, 
released soul is also an actual and in some degree material 
being, which, e.g., may be both visible and audible to others. 
Besides its human form the soul of a sleeper can also take on 
the form of some animal. The Yakuts say that it wanders 
in space as a little bird or butterfly. In a Buriat tale the soul 
issued from the mouth of a sleeper in the form of a bee or a 
wasp. Such soul-animals must be left strictly in peace. 6 

Like dreams, sickness is caused also by the temporary absence 
of the soul from the body. But during sickness, the soul is 
believed to have been driven out of the body against its will. 


Often a malicious spirit, for some reason or other, generally 
to obtain a sacrifice, carries off the soul. This may happen in 
different circumstances, and the soul is exposed to this danger, 
especially during its nocturnal journeys. In the stillness and 
darkness of the night all evil spirits are in motion and on the 
hunt for souls. To obtain help, the soul has to seek its 
deceased friends or other protecting spirits. Thoughtful souls 
can also help themselves by skilfully hiding, e.g., in the fur of 
animals, in leafy trees, or in other objects. Should a poor 
soul be pursued too long it loses itself in deep forests or other 
places strange to it, so that it can no longer find its way home. 
When a soul is seized by an evil spirit, one can sometimes hear 
its weeping and cries. 8 

Another very common belief is that the soul, against its 
will, may be driven by a shock from the body. The Buriats 
believe that the homeless soul then remains for some time at 
the place where this misfortune happens. Unless attention is 
given at once to this accident, the soul begins to wander about 
and flies further and further away, with the result that the 
victim becomes more and more seriously ill and in the end dies. 
The souls of little children can easily be driven away in this 
manner if they are frightened. The consequences of the 
absence of the soul soon show themselves as fatigue, paleness, 
tears, and restlessness during sleep, etc. One has then to seek 
out the place where the soul left its dwelling-place, where it 
may still possibly be found. Should one succeed in winning 
the soul back again by special ceremonies, the sick one becomes 
well again. Often, however, the soul may. disappear without 
its owner being aware of the fact, and when he or she grad- 
ually begins to feel apathetic, weak, and in a decline, it is 
too late to find the soul again. The help of a shaman, who 
has the power of finding all lost and wandering souls, is then 
necessary. 7 

At times a sick person may recover his soul himself. He 
must recall to memory the place where his soul left him, dress 


in the clothes he wore on that occasion, and visit the scene of 
the disaster at a time corresponding to the time of his loss, 
viz., in the evening if his soul left him in the evening, and so 
on. The person seeking his soul has further to take with him 
such delicacies as his soul delights in, and call his soul to par- 
take of them. If the soul happens to be still in the vicinity, 
it will return to its owner, who is said to feel the reunion by 
a violent shivering in the back. It is important to remember 
the exact time, as then the soul is most certainly, to be met with, 
at first every day, later at ever-increasing intervals, until it 
comes at last only once a year to the place of its liberation. 
During a long absence from the body, a soul, however, seldom 
wins through all the dangers threatening it from the many 
malicious and cunning spirits. 8 

A further means of driving a soul from its home, said to be 
used by the spirits, is a tickling of the nose, which induces 
sneezing. This appears from the following Buriat tale, which 
in many other respects also throws light on the beliefs of the 
Mongols regarding souls. 

Once, a man who had the power of seeing spirits and talking 
with them went on a journey. Meeting three spirits on the 
way he went on in their company. As they journeyed he 
ascertained that these spirits had formed wicked plans, intend- 
ing to steal away the soul of a rich man's son. The man tried 
to worm himself into the spirits' favour by promising to help 
in the capture of the soul, and thus obtained an opportunity 
of accompanying them. This man, who wished to play the 
part of a spirit, could not, however, but awaken the attention 
of the spirits. When they had travelled awhile together, the 
spirits asked in astonishment: "Why dost thou walk so that the 
grass falls down and the dry leaves rustle under thy steps? " 
The man replied cunningly that he had died so recently that 
he had not yet learned to walk silently and without leaving a 
track as a spirit should. The spirits believed this. When 
they arrived at the rich man's house, one of the spirits placed 


itself at the door, the other at the chimney, the third went to 
the unlucky son, and by producing an irritation in his nose, 
caused him to sneeze violently. During the sneeze the son's 
soul jumped out of his body and tried to escape by the door, 
but the spirit watching there seized it at once and held it tight, 
although the soul wept bitterly. The spirits then took the 
captured soul away with them. On the way back, the man 
who had joined the spirits asked them if they, had anything in 
the world to fear. The spirits answered that they were very 
much afraid of thistles and thorns. " But what art thou 
afraid of? " asked the spirits. " I," said the man, " am most 
afraid of fat meat." The spirits, unaware that the man in- 
tended to deceive them, travelled further and further. On 
the way the man begged to be allowed to help by carrying the 
soul, which was also granted. But just then they happened 
to come to a place where thorny bushes and thistles grew. 
The man jumped with the soul in his arms among the prickly 
bushes, where the spirits were afraid to come. Remembering 
that the man had expressed his dread for fat meat, they began 
to throw pieces of meat among the bushes to drive him out. 
But the man, who was very fond of meat, ate them without 
danger to himself, on seeing which, the spirits realized that 
they had been tricked and went their way. The man then 
hurried back to the rich man's house, taking the soul with him 
SO that the son recovered. 9 

Sickness may also be caused by the soul injuring itself in 
some way on its travels. According to the Yenisei Ostiaks 
bodily pain is often closely connected with damage to the soul 
(shadow). Should the soul, e.g., hurt its foot, its owner will 
limp; should the soul catch cold, its owner begins to shiver, 
etc., etc. Similar ideas are met with among the Tungus, and 
are reflected in the general belief that everything done to the 
image of a person affects the person himself. The word 
" soul " originally meant both shadow and image. 10 

Should the shadow-soul have left its dwelling-place for 


good, death follows, when also the spirit-soul (Altai Tatar tun, 
Mongol and Buriat amin, " breath ") disappears. Among cer- 
tain peoples, the Buriats and Altai Tatars, the belief prevails 
that when the soul of a sick person comes into the hands of the 
Prince of Death, fate has decreed that the person in question 
shall die, and then even the shaman can no longer be of any 
assistance. The Buriats relate how Erlen-Khan (" Death- 
kingdom's Prince ") sends out his servants to capture wander- 
ing souls. Without caring for the cries for help and the 
prayers of the souls, these servants put them into sacks and 
bear them to their hard master, who places the souls in cap- 
tivity. 11 In a tale about the first shaman, Mergen-khara, it is 
said that he possessed the power of freeing souls even from the 
prisons of the Prince of Death, where these sit with strong 
chains round their necks, hands and feet. The Prince of 
Death complained to the Heaven god Esege-Malan-Tengeri, 
who decided to test the power of the shaman by taking a soul 
up to the heavens and hiding it there in a bottle, the mouth of 
which he stopped up with his thumb. The person whose soul 
had been taken became now dangerously ill and the shaman, 
according to his wont, hurried to seek the soul. He went 
down to the kingdom of the Prince of Death, but failed to 
find the soul there. He then journeyed everywhere under 
the earth and the sea, in chasms in the mountains and deep 
forests, but without result. Then he "sat himself on his 
drum," flew up to heaven and after much difficult searching 
found the soul of the sick one in the bottle. But how to free 
it, as God kept his finger on the mouth of the bottle? The 
shaman was equal to the task. He changed himself into a 
wasp and stung God violently on the forehead, and as God 
tried to protect himself with his right hand the soul escaped 
from the bottle. After a while God noticed that the bottle 
was empty and that the shaman, sitting on the drum with his 
prize, was already sinking towards the earth. God then be- 
came very angry and decreased the power of the shamans, and 


now no shaman can save a soul which has come into the hands 
of the Prince of Death. 12 

After death, the soul is said to remain for a few days in the 
home. According to the Altai Tatars, Buriats, Yakuts, and 
others, the soul of a person recently dead cannot understand 
at once that it has left the body, but wanders for three days 
yet in its old home. Not until the soul notices that it leaves 
no trace in the ashes of the hearth, does it realize that it now 
belongs to the world of spirits. 13 Despite the last fact, how- 
ever, the soul appears in stories with a material body. The 
Yakuts believe it can burn or wound itself and that blood runs 
from its wounds. By means of sharpened objects the soul of 
a dead person can easily be prevented from returning to its 
home. If the soul does not receive sufficient food, it feels 
hungry; without the necessary clothing it feels cold. 1 * The 
soul can even die, according to a popular belief. Of later 
origin is probably the belief held by the Yakuts, that the soul 
is taken round by spirits on the night of burial, to the places 
where its former owner sojourned during life, and punished 
for misdeeds on the spot where these occurred, so that one can 
hear its cries and plaints. 16 

According to a more northern idea, the soul remains among 
the relatives for some time after death. During this period 
the property of the deceased may not be touched, but the soul, 
like a living person, must be provided with food and drink. 
Many peoples, such as the Yakuts, Dolgans, Goldes, and, at 
an earlier time, the Mongols, Kirghis, etc., who prepare images 
of their deceased, or for longer or shorter periods look 
well after and provide for the soul in connection with some 
object owned by the deceased, believe that only at the end 
of these periods does the soul remove to the kingdom of the 
dead. 18 

Besides the souls living In peace and rest in the land of the 
dead, there are also others, which wander restlessly around, 
disturbing the living with all kinds of misfortunes, especially 


sickness. A very common view is that the souls of childless 
or unmarried women, together with those whose owners either 
met with a violent death or died before their time, haunt their 
old homes, causing much trouble to their relations. Only a 
very clever shaman can drive out these spirits, which are 
especially dangerous for infants. The Yakuts call them Cor, 
the Buriats Anakhai. 17 According to the Yenisei Ostiaks the 
spirits of little children and unmarried women wander irri- 
tated around their graves for a whole year after death. 18 The 
longer a soul has been among the other dead, the more it 
begins to acquire the characteristics of an evil spirit. Such 
spirits of the long-ago deceased are the Abasy among the 
Yakuts, Buriat Bokholdoi, Altai Tatar Aina, Uziit, etc. 19 Be- 
sides graves, certain deserted places, e.g., the deserts of Turan 
and Gobi, are the dwelling-places of these evil spirits, who 
from these centres set out on their destructive excursions. In 
mountainous districts places difficult of reach, the summits, 
etc., are the homes of all manner of spirits. The Mongols 
believe further that the souls of wicked people stop halfway 
between this and the next world, floating in the air and causing 
many kinds of misfortune. 2 * The Buriats relate that the 
wandering spirits make fires at night in deserted huts. These 
fires are pale and bluish in colour. This fire can be stolen, 
the person succeeding in doing this becoming very rich. When 
the spirits gather round their fires to sit or dance, they never 
form a complete ring as human beings would. Men can 
sometimes see such spirits, and if they succeed in glancing at 
them before being noticed, the spirits become frightened and 
take to flight. The living are also said to be able to hear 
the song of these spirits. 21 

Like Odin of the Scandinavians, the ruler over the dead is 
said by the Buriats to have one eye in the middle of his fore- 
head. In one of the tales of the latter, a man who had the 
power of seeing spirits kept watch while the spirits gathered 
at a deserted hut. There he happened to see also the ruler 



of the spirits. This was a roughly-built big man, with one 
eye in his forehead. The ruler seated himself in the place of 
honour and now and then announced which souls should be 
brought before him. Each time, certain of the spirits went to 
fulfil his command. The man approached the ruler of the 
dead and shot him in the centre of his forehead so that he fell 
down and was changed into a hip-bone. 22 

The idea that the soul of man is intimately connected with 
the bone-construction of the body, would seem to be a primi- 
tive belief among the Siberian peoples. Just as the preserv- 
ing of the bones of animals — bears, reindeer, etc. — is said to 

Fie. 1 8. North-Siberian Tomb 

be founded on the hope that these animals can preserve their 
lives as long as the skeleton is uninjured, so a similar belief 
was applied to the remains of human beings. In earlier times 
the dead were buried over the earth. According to Strahlen- 
berg the Yakuts often left the body in the hut, removing 
themselves elsewhere." Among nearly all the more northern 


peoples, the custom of placing the bodies of children, some- 
times also of adults, in hollow trees or on the branches of a 
growing tree, has been preserved down to our day. At the 
present time burial-erections are mostly made of wood. The 
body, of a shaman in particular, may not, among the Tungus, 
Yakuts and others, be buried in the earth. For this reason it 
is generally laid in a wooden box, borne on two or four posts. M 
" Shamans," says Georgi, " will mostly dissolve in the free 
air, as the devil lives in the earth." 2S A Tungus assured the 
author that if a shaman is buried in the earth, his soul-bird 
will never return again to a new shaman of the same family. 
The following tale recorded among the Yenisei Ostiaks is 
instructive : When the first man died, his relatives believed him 
to be asleep, but when they were unable to awaken him they 
became afraid and started to cry. The Heaven god, Es, then 
sent down a dog to tell them that they had no reason to be 
afraid, but that they should bind up the body with grass and 
hang it in a tree, when the body would come to life within 
seven days. But the dog deceived the people into burying 
the body, in the ground. The result was that afterwards men 
began to die. aa 

Cremation, which occurs among certain peoples in the north- 
east corner of Siberia (the Chukchee and Koriaks) and also 
among the Buriats, cannot have been one of the earlier methods 
of disposal of the dead among the Altaic peoples. A later 
custom is probably also the Mongol method of throwing a 
body into the fields as food for the dogs/ 7 

Side by side with the thought that the soul wanders after 
death in the other world, the idea appears that the souls of the 
dead may after a time be born again on the earth in a child 
of the same family. The Yenisei Ostiaks believe that the 
soul can take up its dwelling, or live again in some animal, 
especially in bears, and also vice versa. 2 * This belief is not to 
be confounded with that according to which the souls of the 
dead are inclined to many temporary metamorphoses. A cer- 


tain groping after explanations is already apparent in the view 
laid down by a Buriat, according to which human beings have 
three souls. One is taken captive by the Prince of Death; 
the second remains as a ghost in this world, continuing to live 
as before^ the third is born again as a living person. 29 


THE MANNER in which life beyond the grave is im- 
agined appears plainly from the burial ceremonies, in 
which the dead are furnished with food, clothes, implements 
of labour, weapons and domestic animals. The most northern 
peoples of Siberia have a custom of stabbing to death or bind- 
ing reindeer and dogs alive to the grave. The rulers of the 
Yakuts in earlier times received with them on their last jour- 
ney, besides their horse, one of their slaves to serve his master 
in the other world. " His servant followed him," say the 
Yakuts even now, when a poor person dies soon after the death 
of a wealthy man. 1 And even now sacrifices of slaves are said 
to occur among certain Tungus tribes. 

" In the other world," the Altai Tatars say, " we shall sow 
our seed, herd our cattle, drink kumiss and eat beef, with this 
difference only, that we shall live better there, as we shall 
enjoy not only the possession of the cattle we owned on the 
earth, but also of all the domestic animals that have died 
earlier." 2 According to the tales of the Buriats, the dead have 
food, raiment, etc., to the degree in which they were supplied 
with these on their burial-day. Thus, depending on the prop- 
erty the relatives were able to present to the deceased, some 
souls have to walk on foot, others to ride on horseback, the 
most fortunate in carriages. The celebrating of weddings and 
other merry festivals among the dead is also spoken of. The 
dead shaman, who is supplied with his costume, his drum and 
other sacred implements, continues his important calling in 
the other world. In general, the dead are regarded as going 
on with the work which each had done in this world. The 


Buriat " manual labourer does not after death forget his skill, 
the scribe lives by his pen, and a woman who has been a 
skilful sempstress on earth, continues to work with her 
needle. " Specially skilful workers are said to be short-lived, 
because the ruler over the dead needs their help. 3 The 
northern peoples, like the Tungus here, live in the world 
beyond the grave in tents of birch-bark, hunt and fish, and 
practise reindeer-keeping in the great, underworld, primeval 

That the world o£ the dead was originally a reflection of the 
earthly one is shown, further, by the scenes in the shaman 
ceremonies, when the latter escort the soul to the underworld. 
The Tungus believe this last journey to resemble in detail the 
difficult journeys of these nomads over mountains and valleys 
in their great forests. Those who drive here with reindeer, 
ride also to the underworld on the back of a reindeer j those, 
again, who use dogs, travel there behind dogs. 

The shaman's business is to know the difficult path ; the soul 
itself finds it difficult to reach its goal. Many dangers also 
threaten it on the way. Evilly-disposed spirits are often in 
motion, seeking to tempt the soul from its path; cannibal- 
spirits lie in wait to devour it. The Goldes say, that the road 
to the underworld goes through certain particular places, which 
are many in number. At the commencement, the road is the 
same for all the dead, but later a point is reached where as 
many roads branch off as there are families among the Goldes. 
From here the road leads to the " steep slope " and then to the 
" river's crossing-place." This crossing is said to be so diffi- 
cult, that the soul nearly falls down with exhaustion. Still 
a few more places, and then from tracks and newly-chopped 
living branches and the barking of dogs, one may conclude that 
the village of the dead is near. In the underworld each 
family has its own village, where the members of the 
family dwell together, continuing to live as on the earth. 
Life in the underworld is said, however, to be better and 


happier than here. All the dangers and difficulties of the 
journey end at the village. Should the soul go under on its 
last journey, the fault lies with the shaman, who has not been 
clever enough in his calling, and then the services of a better 
shaman must be called in, the latter, by his shamanizing, find- 
ing the point where the soul has succumbed, waking it to life 
again, and escorting it to the village of its earlier deceased 
relations. For some families the last journey is said to be 
more difficult than for others. 

Such of the Goldes as live by keeping reindeer, are escorted 
to the underworld by nine reindeer, eight of which bear the 
property of the deceased, the deceased himself riding on the 
ninth. The saddle is constructed so that the soul cannot fall off 
though the reindeer moves rapidly. As the shaman is said 
to take the form of this reindeer, or to represent its soul, he 
can carry the dead safely by avoiding and going round danger- 
ous places. All the districts passed during the journey are 
described by the shaman in his songs and ceremonies. He 
leads the soul first to the source of the river, by which the clan 
in question dwells, then to the high range of mountains, and 
down this again into a primeval forest until another high 
mountain is reached. Beyond this comes a great swamp which 
has to be crossed. Further the road leads to a mountain tor- 
rent, on the open banks of which a level and beautiful forest 
grows. Gradually, one begins to notice that the surroundings 
are populated, as the forest has been felled and there are 
marks of newly-timbered boats. Finally one arrives in the vil- 
lage of the dead, where smoke rises, tents stand in rows, and 
reindeer feed as among the living Reindeer-Tungus.* 

Such also the Yakut realm of the dead would seem to have 
been originally. The spirits living there in similar circum- 
stances to those of their earthly life are divided into six clans, 
according to information from one district. In certain tales, 
the way to this realm is described as exceedingly difficult to 
travel. The soul has to go in at the throat of a snake-like 


monster, pass through its body, and come out from its tail, 
thus reaching the other world. The way is both painful and 
dangerous, as the gullet and the intestines of the monster are 
said to be covered with great, sharp spikes. For this reason 
the soul has to be provided with clothes and shoes, otherwise 
it would bleed to death. The custom of supplying the dead 
with a horse is said to have originated in the wish to make the 
journey through this dangerous pass as swift as possible. 
Especially in the shaman songs the way to the underworld is 
said to go through many dangers, over " stormy rivers " or 
" bloody streams," through " burning forests " or " icy 
winds." 6 

A very common idea among the Yakuts is that " the other 
world " lies beyond the " death-sea." 6 Most of the peoples 
of North Siberia consider the realm of the dead to lie some- 
where in the north, most often at the mouths of rivers flowing 
into the Arctic Ocean. The point of the compass of the dead 
is said to be " towards the night " or " downwards." Down 
in the north, according to Yakut tales, lives the stern ruler over 
the dead, Arsan-Duolai, in a great chasm with winter frozen 
fields and cold summer-dwellings, where black chimneys arise 
from gloomy huts. This dreaded ruler is said to have his 
mouth in the middle of his forehead and eyes at his temples. 
The spirits serving him (Abasy) come sometimes to the vil- 
lages of the living on depredatory raids, carrying off or 
swallowing people's souls, spreading sickness, etc. By appeas- 
ing them with bloody sacrifices, the shamans cause them to 
return to their dismal dwelling-place. 7 

Like the Yakuts, the Ugrians and the Yenisei Ostiaks speak 
also of an evil Prince of the dead living in the north, who 
carries off or devours souls. According to the latter, certain 
naked rocks in the Arctic Ocean are the dwelling-place of the 
dead. Side by side with this, another belief is met with 
among them, viz., that under the earth there is a great grotto, 
or seven grottoes under one another, in which the souls of the 


dead dwell, and where in the place of the sun and moon, only 
rotted trees give out a dim light. Strange fishes live in the 
underground rivers. 8 A third description noted down by the 
author among them relates how the underworld is a complete 
reflection of the Yenisei District. The underground Yenisei 
is said however to flow in the opposite direction. 

The above seven grottoes are obviously closely connected 
with the seven or nine underground storeys, which according 
to the Altai Tatars and others are situated horizontally under 
the " middle place " or the earth and correspond to a similar 
number of planes of Heaven above. 9 The Central Asian 
people generally regard the underworld as populated by evil 
beings, ruled over by the stern Erlik-Khan, who is said to sit 
on his black throne, surrounded by a court consisting of evil 
spirits. At the command of their lord these spirits often make 
excursions, more especially in the night-time, to the world of 
the living, where they seize some poor soul and carry it off 
with them to their home. Extremely common is also the idea 
that this ruler over the dead has power only over those who 
were wicked in this life. Those mortals again, who have done 
more good than evil, are taken after death to the heavenly 
dwelling-places. 10 The path to both the underground dwell- 
ings and those above is believed to go through a hole in the 
middle of each plane, and according to this idea the Ostiaks 
call the seven-storeyed sky " seven-holed," n the Chukchee ex- 
plaining that each hole is perpendicularly under the North 
Star. 12 As the hole leading to the underworld, which is often 
used by the shaman, is, of course, also in the centre of the 
earth, one may often see among his magic things a disc repre- 
senting the earth, in the midst of which is a round hole. In 
travelling to the heavens, the Altai shamans use also a world- 
tree furnished with divisions, the Dolgans explaining that the 
shamans escort the souls of the dead to the tree in question, 
where they continue their life in the shape of a little bird. 1 * 

In Heaven also, life resembles that on the earth. According 


to certain tribes living in the District Turuhansk, the souls 
in Heaven resemble little people, who catch little fishes in the 
lakes there. 14 The Buriats say that the souls living in heaven 
have cattle and houses, wives and children there. They even 
pay visits to one another, drink spirits and get intoxicated." 
According to the Chukchee the heavens are peopled with spirits 
which live there in families and, like the people of the earth, 
exist by fishing and hunting. Often, however, the game they 
seek is human souls, which they carry with them to some storey 
of the sky, whence only a clever shaman can save them. 14 

How far these ideas of Heaven as the dwelling-place of the 
dead have originated among the above peoples, is hard to 
decide. In any case they are extremely old as they are con- 
nected with so many shamanistic customs. On the other hand 
the belief held by many peoples that those who have met their 
death in war or through an accident go to Heaven — a belief 
found among the most varying peoples all round the earth — 
is most probably of great antiquity. Like the Ugrians and 
certain Tatar tribes, the peoples of North-East Siberia, such 
as the Chukchee and the Gilyaks of the Amur country, believe 
that the souls of those who die a violent death go directly to 
Heaven, while those who die a natural death, remain on earth 
or descend underground. According to the Chukchee the 
Aurora Borealis is chiefly the home of those who die a violent 

The most original views do not regard the realm of the dead 
as a place of restitution, where the soul has to answer for the 
sins committed during life. Such Altaic peoples as have come 
under the influence of alien and more highly developed teach- 
ings, form exceptions in this respect. 

In a Buriat tale the hero Mu-monto journeys on a com- 
mission from his father through the realm of the dead, to 
demand back the horse sacrificed by the latter at the burial of 
his father. To arrive there, one must first go due north. 
On the way there is a large, black stone. When the traveller 





K . . 

f has lifted up this and shouted: "Come here," a fox appears 

I in the opening under the stone and says: " Hold fast to my 

j tail." If one then obeys this request, the fox will lead him 

i into the land of the dead. Mu-monto, travelling further and 

j further with the help of the fox, saw many mysterious things. 

First he saw horses that were very fat on a naked rock. Then 

I he met very thin and miserable cattle on a rich meadow. In 

j! another place he met women with their mouths sewn up. In 

] a great cauldron full of boiling pitch he saw officials and 

\ shamans writhing ceaselessly. On his way he saw, further, 

? men whose hands and feet were bound fast, and women who, 

; although naked, embraced thorn-bushes. In one place he saw 

a woman who, although she appeared to be poor, lived luxu- 

\ riously, and another, who, although rich, suffered from hunger. 

t Mu-monto soon learned the reasons for the fates of these 


people. The poor woman had been good during her life, and 

-j out of her little had shared with the needy, therefore she had 

r everything in plenty now y but the other, albeit rich, had been 

* hard-hearted and parsimonious, and had therefore now to 

1 starve. The naked who embraced the thorn-bushes had been 

frivolous and betrayed their husbands. The bound men had 

■j been thieves. Those who were boiled in pitch had been false 

\ in their professions. Those whose mouths were sewn fast had 

j been liars during life and spread calumnies. The thin and 

j miserable horses on the rich meadow had been so ill-treated by 

i their masters during life that they could not even now become 

j fatter, while the fat horses on the naked rock had been so 

] well-fed that even without food they were still flourishing." 

, In a Tatar tale, recorded by M. A. Castren from the neigh- 

j bourhood of the Sayan steppes, life under the earth is described 

I in a somewhat similar manner. The daughter of the ruler of 

I the dead, Irlek-Khan, once came to the earth in the shape of a 

I black fox and did all kinds of harm to human beings. A hero 

{ named Komdei-Mirgan was persuaded to hunt the fox, which, 

j however, ambushed him so that his leg was broken. Shortly 


thereafter, a monster (Yelbegen) with nine heads and riding 
on a forty-horned ox, arose out of the earth. This monster 
cut off the hero's head and carried it off to the underworld. 
When the hero's sister Kubaiko came to weep at her brother's 
corpse and saw that the head was lacking, she decided to go to 
the realm of the dead and seek the head there. The tracks 
of the ox of Yelbegen showed her the way. These led to an 
underground opening, through which she descended into Irlek- 
Khan's kingdom. Here she met with many, marvellous 
things. By the wayside she saw seven clay vessels and an old 
woman who poured milk from one vessel to another without 
ceasing. Further on, a horse fastened with a long halter 
stood on a plain of sand where there was neither grass nor 
water, but in spite of this the horse was fat and in good con- 
dition. Not far off another horse, bound in the same manner, 
stood in a green field with running water, but this horse was 
lean and wasted. In another place she saw half of a human 
body forming a dam for a brook, while in another place a 
whole body was not sufficient to dam a similar brook. Kubaiko 
rode astonished past all these things and came deeper into the 
earth. Gradually she began to hear more and more distinctly 
the clang of hammers, and soon she saw forty men beating out 
hammers, another forty making saws, and a similar number 
making tongs. Following the tracks of Yelbegen 's ox she 
travelled on without fear, until she reached the bank of a 
river running along the foot of a mountain. On the bank she 
saw Irlek-Khan's dwelling, a building of stone with forty cor- 
ners. Before the entrance stood nine larches, all growing 
from the same root. To this tree the horses of the nine 
Princes of death were bound, one to each branch, and Kubaiko 
also bound her horse to it. While doing this she saw the fol- 
lowing inscription on the tree: "When Kudai (God) created 
heaven and earth, this tree was also brought forth, and to this 
day no man and no animal has come living to the tree." Hav- 
ing read this Kubaiko entered the dwelling of the Princes of 


death and closed the door after her. It was dark inside and 
Kubaiko was soon lost in the room. She felt invisible hands 
take hold of her, her clothes were torn, she was dragged about 
and tormented, but when she tried to grasp her tormentors, 
she could not, as they were without bodies. In her dread she 
shouted. And then the door opened, the room became light 
and the Head (Ataman) of the Princes of death came in. He 
noticed Kubaiko, but turned again and went out without a 
word. Kubaiko followed closely at his heels. She went first 
through many rooms that were empty and waited inhabitants, 
but afterwards came many rooms filled with human beings. In 
one of them she saw old women sit and spin linen with great 
energy. In another room also she saw old women, but these 
were without any occupation, except that they appeared to be 
continually, swallowing something that would not go down 
their throats. In a third room were middle-aged women, with 
great stones, which they were unable to move, round their 
arms and necks. A fourth room was filled with men who had 
nooses round their necks fastened to great logs. In a fifth 
room she saw armed men who had been shot through, and who 
sprang about shouting and groaning. The same shrieking and 
groaning was heard from a sixth room where there were badly 
wounded men armed with knives. Coming to the seventh 
room, she saw mad dogs and people bitten by them, mad and 
raving like the dogs. This was followed by an eighth room 
in which husbands and wives lay in couples under their cover- 
lets, but although these coverlets had been sewn together of 
nine sheepskins, they would only, cover one member of each 
of the sleeping couples, and husbands and wives quarrelled 
unceasingly over the coverlets. The ninth room also con- 
tained husbands and wives under coverlets, made of one sheep- 
skin only, which were, however, sufficient to cover both. 
Finally, she entered a tenth room, large as a steppe. In this 
room sat eight Princes of death and, in the midst of these, 
their Chief, Irlek-Khan. Kubaiko bowed to them and asked 


why their servant Yelbegen had cut off and carried away her 
brother's head. The Princes replied that this had been done 
at their orders, but promised to give back the head if she could 
pull up a goat with seven horns which had grown fast in the 
earth and lay so deep that only the horns showed. Otherwise, 
she would lose her own head. Kubaiko, who was a heroine, 
did not hesitate to accept the proposal. The Princes then took 
her through nine other rooms, filled with human heads. 
Kubaiko burst into tears when she recognized her brother's 
head. In a tenth room the goat lay embedded in the earth. 
Kubaiko had now to show her strength and, at the third 
attempt, lifted the goat on to her shoulder. When the Princes 
saw that she was a mighty heroine, they gave her her brother's 
head and escorted her back to the larch. Here Kubaiko 
mounted her horse, but before riding off she compelled the 
Princes to show her the way back to the earth. During the 
journey she enquired about everything she had seen. The 
Princes gave her all particulars, saying: " The old woman 
whom thou sawest pouring milk, mixed water with the milk 
she gave to her guests on earth, and as a punishment for this 
bad deed has now to separate water from milk, a task she 
must keep on doing through all eternity. The half -body thou 
sawest damming a brook is not undergoing any punishment, but 
belonged instead to a wise man on the earth who could dam 
rivers and do anything he wished. Now, half of his body lies 
as a reminder to the passer-by that a wise man, even though 
bereft of his limbs, can accomplish great things with his will, 
while on the other hand, the complete body over which the 
brook flows serves to remind one that by strength alone man 
can do little. This body belonged formerly to a physically 
strong, but stupid man. As the water now runs over his body, 
so ran every matter past his understanding, without either 
being comprehended or turned to account through intelligence. 
The fat horse on the dry sand is a proof that a thoughtful 
man can keep his horse in condition even with poor fodder, 


while the thin horse on the rich pasture shows that cattle can- 
not thrive on the best pastures unless well cared for," There- 
after Kubaiko asked: "Who were the beings that seized me 
in the dark room, tore my clothes and tormented me, but were 
without bodies? " The Princes replied: " They were our in- 
visible serving-spirits that can injure and kill all wicked people, 
but can do nothing to the good." Kubaiko continued to in- 
quire into the sins of the people held captive in the dwelling 
of the Princes, receiving the following answer: "The women 
thou sawest spinning in the first room have been given this 
work as a punishment for having spun during their lives after 
sunset, when it is forbidden to work. Those again who sat 
in the second room had been given threads to wind on spindles, 
but had left the spindles hollow in the centre and hidden the 
thread in their own bosoms. The spindleful which they thus 
gathered of stolen wool, they are now doomed to swallow, 
which is impossible, so that they must keep the spindle in their 
throats through eternity. The younger women in the third 
room had sold butter, in which they had hidden stones to 
increase the weight. The men in the fourth room have nooses 
round their necks, which are continually threatening to choke 
them, because they hanged themselves on earth for weariness 
of life. The men with shot-wounds are suicides, who shot 
themselves on account of quarrels with their wives. Similarly, 
the men in the sixth room are suicides, who cut themselves with 
knives while drunk. The inhabitants of the seventh room 
brought on their punishments by teasing mad dogs in life and 
being bitten by. them. In the eighth room were married 
people who had quarrelled through their lives and looked only 
to their own advantage} now they are doomed to bicker eter- 
nally over a covering which by good will and harmony would 
be more than enough for both. The married people, on the 
other hand, in the ninth room are there only as an example 
of how even a little property can be sufficient for a family, if 
there is harmony between the married couple. They are not 


undergoing any punishment, but have been brought solely 
that the wicked, by seeing them, should feel their punishment 


Having received all this information from the Princes of 
death Kubaiko separated from them, returned to the body of 
her brother with the head, and with water of life, procured 
from God, awakened her dead brother to life again. 18 

Alien influence can also be detected in an idea of the Tungus 
living near the Baikal, that each mortal will be weighed after 
death with a white and a black stone. If the white stone 
weighs less than the soul, the latter goes up to heaven, but if 
the black one is lighter than the soul, the soul goes to the 
underworld. The punishment there is that the soul is first 
thrown into a dark pit, where it is tormented by. terrible cold, 
and afterwards roasted in never-ending flames. 20 The idea, 
met with among certain Tatar tribes, of a very narrow punish- 
ment-bridge, from which the soul overladen with sins falls 
into the depths below, has obviously come from Persia, 

To true shamanism these ideas of restitution are completely 
alien. Certain terrible places are, however, met with in the 
cannibal-myths of the Northern peoples, into which the soul, 
regardless of its former life, may fall against its will. 

In the cannibal myths of the Goldes, a gloomy, place by a 
river is mentioned, on the sand-covered bank of which grows 
an enormously high poplar. The leaves of the tree prevent 
the rays of the sun by day and of the moon by night from fall- 
ing on this deserted place. The spirit-birds, which fly about 
in the service of wicked shamans to torment and trouble poor 
souls, gather mostly in this tree. On the ground round about 
lie countless human bones. According to a tale, a girl who 
had happened to come there one evening saw two fires in the 
sky and heard the rustle of the wings of a great bird. The 
bird, which resembled a crane, bore a poor human being on its 
back, who pleaded the whole time : " Kill me quickly, why dost 
thou torment me." " Soon, soon," answered the bird, " see, 


there is my tree! " It then sat in the crown of the tree and 
slung the man on to a branch, where he remained hanging. 
Again and again he begged : " Kill me quickly, do not torture 
me! " When the girl, who was a heroine, saw how the bird 
began to tear off the man's garments with its beak, she became 
angry,, aimed her bow at the bird and said: " If thou dost not 
take on thy shaman costume, I will kill thee." " Wait a 
little," said the bird, shaking its wings, which then became 
changed into iron feathers. " Shoot now," it said, " now thou 
canst not kill me, but thine own hours are counted." The 
heroine saw, however, a naked place in the evil being's breast 
between the feathers, and aiming her arrow at this shot the 
bird, which, falling to the ground, became a flame of fire. 41 
In its dream-voyages the soul may sometimes happen on 
such nests of evil spirits j an idea, the reason for which is prob- 
ably to be found in the horrible nightmares and fever-visions 
of hysterical persons. 


AMONG nearly all primitive peoples, it is held that the 
chief cause of sickness is a temporary absence of the soul 
from its material envelope and that the only cure is the success- 
ful recovering of the soul. Connected with this is a belief 
in the existence of persons furnished with certain extraordinary 
powers, who, by different means and in different ways, gen- 
erally, however, in a condition of ecstasy, can come into imme- 
diate touch with the spirit-world. Such persons are given 
different names by the separate peoples of Siberia. The Mon- 
gols and the Buriats nearly related to these, call them " bo," 
the Yakuts " ojun," the Altai Tatars " kam," and the Tungus 
" shaman." Through Russian ethnography the Tungusian 
name has been adopted by the literature of the science of reli- 
gion. As the shaman is of the greatest importance in the 
nature-religion of the Siberian peoples, this form of religion 
has generally begun to be called shamanism. 

It is not possible to become a shaman only by education or 
practice, a shaman having to possess special shamanic talents, 
which appear in varying forms with different individuals, often 
in early youth. The Tungus say no one can " take " this talent, 
but that it is " received " or, in other words, that " one is 
called " to the profession of shaman. A common idea is that 
a shamanic talent is " a difficult burden n for a beginner. 

Dr. Sternberg, who, during his stay in East Siberia, made 
many interesting observations among the Giliak shamans, says 
that the preparation for the office of shaman forms a crisis in 
the life of the chosen, a crisis followed by extremely compli- 
cated psychic manifestations. A shaman of his acquaintance 


related that before he became a shaman he was ill for over 
two months, lying motionless and unconscious for this period. 
He was convinced that he would have died if he had not be- 
come a shaman. After the severe trials of these months he 
was reduced to complete exhaustion. During the nights, he 
started to dream that he sang shaman songs. Once a white 
owl appeared to him and placed itself close behind him, while 
a human being stood a little further off and said: " Make 
thyself a drum and everything a shaman needs, and sing songs, 
Thou wilt never more succeed in being an ordinary individual j 
but if thou acceptest the calling of shaman, thou wilt become 
a real shaman." He was unaware how long he had slept, but 
when he awoke, he saw that he was being held over a fire, 
his relatives believing that the spirit had killed him. He then 
commanded his relations to give him a drum and started to 
sing. During this singing he felt intoxicated but not as one 
dead. 1 

According to the Tungus a deceased shaman appears to the 
member of his own family whom he has chosen as his successor. 
This visit may take place in a dream, or during a severe ill- 
ness. Anyone refusing to follow this call is tormented by the 
spirit to the verge of death. When the spirit has appeared to 
a shaman candidate, the latter begins to withdraw from the 
company of his fellows, has difficult nerve-attacks and fits of 
hysteria and epilepsy, behaving at times as though his mind 
were unhinged. The Tungus of the Turukhansk District call 
a shaman-spirit Khargi. 2 

A Yakut shaman describes his experiences as follows: " At 
the age of twenty I became ill and began to see and hear what 
other people do not see or hear. For nine years I resisted 
the spirit and told no one what was happening, for fear of 
being misunderstood or insulted. Finally, I became so ill 
that death was very near. It was then that I began to 
shamanize, recovering immediately. Even now, if I refrain 
from shamanizing for a long time, 1 become indisposed and 


fall ill." The spirit, which appears to the chosen, is said to 
be the soul of a dead shaman, and is called Amagat by the 
Yakuts. The Amagat of the shaman, which advises and pro- 
tects him through life, is pictured in metal on his costume as 
a little man-like figure. 8 

Common to all the Siberian peoples is the view that only a 
member of a family or clan that has earlier contained shamans 
can become a shaman. The calling goes thus in inheritance. 
But individuals with shamanic talents do not appear in every 
generation. The Tungus at the Yenisei explained to the 
author, that if a shaman is buried in the earth and not on an 
erection in the air, the " loom " {Cavia lumma, a soul-bird of 
the shaman) of the deceased will return no more to his family. 
Often the " loom " appears first after a longer period. It is 
held that this " loom," the reappearance of which in the family 
is regarded as a great honour, is the wandering soul of the 
deceased shaman. When the " loom " has appeared to anyone, 
that is to say, when shamanic gifts become apparent in any 
individual, a wooden image is made of the bird and a reindeer 
sacrificed to it. This " loom " becomes the protective spirit of 
the new shaman. Here we meet with a conception, peculiar to 
shamanism, that besides the ordinary souls common to all men, 
the shaman possesses a special shaman-soul, lacking to others. 
From the beliefs connected with death it appears that this 
shaman-soul is immortal in a much higher degree than other 
souls. For this reason, special ceremonies are necessary at the 
burial of a shaman. Not even a chief, however many herds 
of reindeer he possesses, can compare in matters of religion 
with the poorest shaman, who, on account of his " loom " is 
honoured and feared already during his life, but still more 
after his death. 

The Yakuts sometimes call the shaman-soul stir, which in 
other Turkish languages signifies soul in general. Its seat is 
said to be in the head of the shaman. It is related in a tale, 
how a great shaman received his head " in the Heaven of 


M'anariks " (m'dn'drik, " nervy," " insane "\ manarii, " to lose 
one's sense").* According to the Buriats, a person who has 
been scared out of his wits by violent thunder receives a special 
shamanic talent. 5 The Yakuts say such persons have received 
stir from Ulu-Tojon, the god of thunder. 8 

Besides male shamans, female shamans are also met with, 
though these can in no way be compared with the male in 
power and importance. Generally, they are called also by a 
different name from the male shamans (Yakut, Altai-Tatar, 
Buriat, Mongol, " udagan," " utagan," etc.). There have 
been, however, especially among the Buriats, many famous 
female shamans, worshipped after their death by their rela- 
tives. Each place, each family, and each tribe has, according 
to the Buriats, its individual Zajans or protective spirits of 
deceased shamans, both male and female, who after death 
were buried on adjoining heights, where their images (ongon) 
were also placed. At times even ordinary Buriat men or 
women become Zajans after death, and special ceremonies are 
gone through in their honour; but these are said to become 
Zajans " by the power of their shamanic origin and the pro- 
tective powers springing therefrom for the survivors." r 

It is extremely important for each person to remember his 
shamanic origin, called Utkha by the Buriats. Each family, 
or clan, has its own Utkha, which imposes special duties on its 
members. It is said of the family Sartul, which dwells east 
of the Baikal, " that they do not devour the blood of animals, 
as their shaman-Utkha forbids this, and especially must they 
refrain from devouring the blood of the Sartul-family's 
shaman animals." An animal or a bird, regarded as pro- 
tecting the shaman, is called khubilgan by the Buriats. In 
their opinion, each shaman has his own protectors, some a 
snake, some a vulture, some a frog, etc. 8 

Closely connected with the family, Utkha are also the house- 
hold spirits or household Ongons. These household spirits, 
worshipped by the members of the family and preserved in the 


tent, generally consist of a sheepskin on which tinplate figures 
of human beings and other things are fastened, or these figures 
may also be painted on the sheepskin or on a cloth. These 
Ongons are inherited with the tales and traditions attached to 
them. Among the Buriats of the Khangin clan one may see 
an Ongon, called Borto, in nearly every dwelling, and of this 
it is said that the forefather of the clan, Khorton, a great 
shaman, had borne it on his back from Mongolia. Prayers 
to this Ongon begin: " Utkha of the thousands of Khangins, 
Sen-Serel bird {sen, a Siberian swan), Utkha of the Serel Mon- 
gols, Khun-Khorel bird (khun, a Siberian swan) ." * 

Animals, and especially birds, which play some part in 
shamanic beliefs, may not be killed or even molested, other- 
wise sickness or some other misfortune will result. Among 
the Tungus, as among many other North Siberian peoples, 
certain birds, water-birds in particular, such as the loom, sea- 
gull, swan, crane, etc., are sacred. One may not even point 
a finger at them. Further, one tries to avoid mentioning their 
names. A Buriat tale tells how a swan, whose nest had been 
damaged, flew with a burning brand in its beak and dropped 
it on a house, so that the whole village was burnt up. Among 
the Yakuts and Buriats, the eagle is treated with extraordinary 
respect and dread. The Yakuts say that it is not a sign of 
good luck if an eagle flies over a village. The Buriats round 
the Baikal call the eagle " Olkhon island's master " or " the ' 
son of the god living on Olkhon island." Often the great 
shamanic powers of the eagle are praised, some myths calling 
it "the first shaman." There are countless tales of misfor- 
tunes which befell people who ill-treated this bird. A man 
once saw how an eagle plucked at the carcase of his cow, which 
had been killed on the steppes by a wolf. The man became 
angry and started to drive away the bird with a bough. Shortly 
afterwards he became seriously ill, and received the knowledge 
in a dream that his illness had been caused by his treatment 
of the eagle. The Buriats throw milk or kumiss into the air 


each time a swan or an eagle flies over their village. 10 If a 
Yakut finds a dead eagle or the skeleton of one, he regards it 
as his duty to bury, the bird on a special erection of wood, or 
in a tree, in the manner in which human beings, particularly 
shamans, were earlier buried. While doing this, he utters 
the following words: "Lift up thyself, fly to thy birthplace, 
come not down on the earth. Thy bones of copper I have 
placed on the grave-erection, thy bones of silver have I lifted 
up." ll With similar respect do the Tungus also treat shaman 

It is not always easy to define the difference between shaman 
animals and such as are regarded as the forefather or mother 
of a clan or a people. The myths, of the Altaic peoples tell 
also of the latter. Among the Buriats tales have been recorded 
of three swans which once came down from the sky to bathe 
in a lake. They took off their swan-garments and became 
changed into three fair women. A hunter, who had hidden 
himself on the shore, took one of these swan-garments and 
hid it. When the swan- women had bathed for a time, they 
hurried to the shore to clothe themselves again, and when the 
others were ready to fly away the one who had lost her gar- 
ment had to remain behind on the earth. The hunter mar- 
ried her later and she bore him eleven sons and six daughters. 
Once, after a long time, the wife remembered her former 
garment and inquired of her husband where he had left it. 
The man was so certain that she would not now leave him and 
her children that he decided to return the wonderful garment 
to her. With his consent, the woman then put it on to see 
how she would look in it. But no sooner had she got the 
swan-garment on, than she flew up through the smoke-hole 
and, floating high above her home, shouted to those left be- 
hind: " Ye are earthly beings and remain on the earth, I am 
from Heaven and fly back to my home." She added: " Each 
spring and autumn, when the swans fly northward and return, 
ye must carry out certain ceremonies in my honour." She then 


blessed her children, hoping that they would live happily on 
the earth, and disappeared in the sky. It is further related 
how one of the swan-woman's daughters tried to hinder her 
mother from flying by grasping her feet, which, as the daugh- 
ter had dirty hands, became black and have remained so to 
this day. 12 

Tales related to the above, are met with also in Europe, 
having probably come there from Asia, but it should be noted 
that among the Buriats, certain ceremonies are connected with 
this belief. Generally speaking, tales of the supernatural 
origin of certain tribes and clans are not scarce among the 
Altaic peoples. According to the notes made by Potanin in 
the Altai territory the forefather of the Bersit clan was a wolf, 
which lived in the forest near a .lake together with a deer 
{Cervus elaphus). Of these a son was born who became the 
ancestor of the said clan. 13 Regarding the origin of the Mon- 
gols there are several myths. In some it is related that their 
ancestor was a dog, or that he was given birth to by a tree and 
nourished by a dog. It is also related how two Khans warred 
together and destroyed all the people until only one woman 
was left. This last woman met with a bull by whom she had 
two children. From these the whole race of the Mongols was 
born. A variant of this tale describes how a woman gave 
birth to the son of a bull, the child walking on all fours. 
When the forefeet had been cut off this ancestor of the Mon- 
gols began to live like a human being, and ate meat in the 
place of grass. 14 The Kirghis believe themselves to be de- 
rived from a wild boar, and for this reason do not eat pork. 
According to one tale Jenghiz Khan's son lived at Gobi to- 
gether with a wild boar, the latter bearing him several sons. 
Thus arose a great people, i.e., the Kirghis* 16 

Several myths have been recorded among the Buriats re- 
garding their ancestor Bukha-Nojon (" Bull Lord ")• South 
of the Baikal lived a king, Taizhi-Khan, who had a mottled 
bull. This, an exceptionally large and powerful animal, once 


said in its pride : " Whoever in the world dares to measure 
his strength against mine, may come and try." Then Bukha- 
Nojon was changed to a blue-grey bull and went to the king- 
dom of Taizhi-Khan to wrestle with the mottled bull. Dur- 
Zthe day-time he wrestled as a bull, but in the night he 
4 t company as a fair youth with Taizhi-Khan's daughter. 
After a time the latter became enceinte and told Bukha-Nojon 
that she would soon give birth to a child. Then Bukha- 
Nojon ripped the child from her stomach and cast it with his 
horns over the Baikal. After he had vanquished the mottled 
bull, Bukha-Nojon swam over the lake, found the child on 
the shore and began to nourish it. A shaman woman found 
the child later sucking at a blue-grey bull, adopted it and 
called it Bulagat. This Bulagat, who had two sons, the an- 
cestors of two clans, Khori and Buriat, of which the shamans 
sing that they are derived from " the resting-place of the 
blue-grey bull," found a playmate on the shore of the Baikal, 
Ekerit, also an ancestor, of whom it is said that " the burbot 
{Lota lota) was his father, the shore his mother." " 

According to another myth, the forefathers of the Buriats 
came down from Heaven and were nourished by a wild boar. 
It is further related that Khurmusta's daughter, who became 
enceinte from some unknown cause, came down to the earth in 
the form of a goat and gave birth to two sons and a daughter. 17 

What appear to be relics of totemism were found in Siberia 
among the Yakuts in the eighteenth century,. Strahlenberg 
says: " Otherwise, each family regards a particular creature 
as sacred, such as the swan, the goose, the raven, etc., and such 
animals as are held sacred by a family are not eaten among 
its members, though others are free to do so." 1S Similarly, in 
an appendix " Concerning the Yakuts," which is said to be taken 
from " two old manuscripts " and which appeared in a Russian 
book published in 1844, A Journey to Yakutsk, each clan has 
its own particular protector or mediator, represented by an 
image of a stallion with white lips, a raven, a swan, etc. 


These animals were never used as food. 19 According to a 
third source such animals are the eagle and the crane.* 9 

Probably the family-names derived from the animal king- 
dom and the ownership-marks of certain North Siberian 
peoples denoting animals, are connected with these totemistic 
ideas. But during the centuries and thousands of years of 
their use, the original significance of these matters has faded 
from the consciousness of the people. 

Certain investigators have attempted to trace the rise of 
totemism from an old custom, known over nearly the whole 
world, of giving names taken from nature to children, often 
from the animal kingdom. The most northern peoples of 
Siberia give their children even today names taken from some 
object which, at the moment when the soul was believed to 
have taken possession of the child, awakened the interest of 
the mother or those around her. The Yenisei Ostiaks give 
their children the name of the object "on which the shadow 
(ulvei) of the child fell first." 21 

Further, it has been pointed out that in early times the 
difference between man and the animals was not regarded 
as unsurmountable. In countless Siberian tales it is related 
how certain animals were once men and vice versa. The 
Buriats say of the bear that it was formerly a hunter or a 
shaman, which was later changed into a bear. Should the 
animal so wish, it could regain its human form. The Tungus 
say that when the beaver was a human being, it was a skilful 
archer. According to the Altai Tatars the owl was a great 
shaman. The Yenisei Ostiaks told me that the swan was 
originally a woman, and from that time the bird has retained 
menstruation. Even certain fish, such as the burbot, are, ac- 
cording to the Buriats, human beings drowned in the water. 
The Buriats tell of a land in the north-east, where the men are 
born as dogs, larger, however, than ordinary dogs, while the 
opposite sex are born as ordinary women.** 

Just as there are tales describing the origin of ancestors 


from certain animals, so it is related that the " power " of 
the first female shamans was derived from an animal or a bird. 
According to a Buriat myth the gods, when they created the 
first people, sent a vulture to protect them against evil spirits. 
But when the people did not understand its sacred mission, 
and started to shoot at it, it returned to the gods complain- 
ing: " I cannot protect mankind as they wish to kill me." 
The gods then answered: " Go back and give thy wonder- 
ful power to some one of the earth's inhabitants." The 
vulture flew down and saw a girl herding sheep. The bird 
enticed her at once into a forest where it gave her its magic 
powers. After this the girl began to see spirits and to keep 
company with them. She received also a marvellous power 
of foretelling both good and evil. When, after a time, she 
returned home, her brother scolded her for having Ven out 
so long with the sheep. The girl became angry and threatened 
her brother, who shortly afterwards fell ill. The sister, who 
had become a great shaman, was able, however, to cure him.* 3 
According to another Buriat tale men knew nothing of sick- 
ness or death in the beginning, but were liable to these mis- 
fortunes through evil spirits. The gods then sent down an 
eagle from heaven to protect the people. The eagle was 
thus " the first shaman." The people did not, however, 
understand the duty of the bird, so that it was forced to 
return to heaven. The gods told the eagle to give its shaman 
nature to the first person it should meet on the earth. The 
eagle then approached a woman sleeping under a tree, who 
had left her husband, and she became enceinte by the eagle. 
The woman now returned to her husband, lived in complete 
harmony with him, and gave birth to a son, who became later 
"the first shaman." A variant of the same tale gives the 
woman as " the first shaman." By receiving the eagle's powers, 
she could see spirits and practise the profession of shaman. 24 
Among the Buriats one meets thus with two conceptions, 
which might possibly throw light on the problem of totemism. 


One is that the forefather of a clan originated from an animal j 
the other, that the magic powers of the first shaman woman 
or ancestress of the clan were obtained from some animal. 
Which of these should be regarded as the older conception? 
Judging from the Buriat myths, both are closely related. 
The " animal " which inspires the a first shaman woman " 
of the clan is also looked upon as a possible cause of her 
pregnancy. In this manner tales might arise of the animal- 
like ancestors of a clan. As the " animal's powers," accord- 
ing to an old belief, then go down in inheritance in the " first 
shaman woman's " clan (Yakut ija-usa, " mother-clan "), or, 
in other words, lie dormant within the family, appearing only 
in its shamans, it becomes obvious that knowledge of their 
Utkha (" origin ") is of importance to each clan and that it 
imposes certain duties on the clan. The animal whose 
" powers " or nature lie latent in a shaman clan becomes a 
special soul for the shaman. The Tungus conception of the 
" return of the ' loom ' " points to a kind of migration of the 
soul. The Buriats call an animal of this description khubilgan 
(" metamorphosis," from khubilkhUj u to change oneself," 
" to take on another form "). In a variant of the myth of 
the "ancestor" of the Buriats, Bukha-Nojon ("Bull 
Master"), it is related that when this people still dwelt in 
the land of the Khalkha Mongols, a very large blue-grey ox 
appeared in their midst, the people accepting it as their khubil- 
gan.™ The conceptions of an " ancestor " and a khubilgan 
have thus been united in this myth. 

One of the shaman's protective spirits in animal form is 
commonly regarded as being intimately connected with the 
shaman himself. Among certain Samoyeds in the Turukhansk 
District the shaman spirit has the shape of a reindeer which is 
bound by an invisible leather band to the shaman. This 
leather band can stretch to any length when the reindeer is 
sent out on a journey. It may happen, sometimes, that the 
spirit-reindeer of two shamans engage in warfare together 


(cf. the bull-fighting in the Buriat myth). Should one of 
the reindeer be killed in the conflict, the shaman owning the 
same dies. 28 That the " reindeer " is here a transformation 
of the shaman's soul, appears from a custom of the Yuralc 
Samoyeds, after the death of a shaman, of preparing a wooden 
image of a reindeer, which is kept by the relatives wrapped up 
in the hide of a reindeer calf. 

The Yakuts call a shaman animal of this description ija- 
kyl (" mother-animal "). These may be of varying species. 
The mightiest shaman animals are said to be the stag, the 
stallion, the bear, the eagle, etc. Unlucky the shaman whose 
ija-kyl is a wolf or a dog. The dog, it is said, never leaves the 
shaman in peace, but " gnaws with its teeth at his heart and 
tortures his body." When a new shaman has appeared, the 
others know this through having noticed the appearance of 
a new ija-kyl. Only shamans can see these animals. When 
they quarrel, their " animals " fight together. An " animal 
war " may go on for several months or years. The one whose 
" animal " wins the fight emerges whole from the struggle, 
but, as said before, if one of the " animals " dies, its shaman 
owner dies too. The sickness of a shaman is often said to 
depend on a grave battle between shamans. 27 

Among the Dolgans standing under the influence of the 
Yakuts the same shaman spirit is met with under the same 
name. Although the shamans have many helping spirits in 
the shapes of different animals, each shaman has only one 
ija-kyl upon which his life and death depend. This spirit- 
animal is said to appear to the shaman at the most three 
times in his life, viz., at his call to the office of shaman, in 
the middle of his shaman activity, and immediately before his 
death, when the spirit dies also. Should the animal die of 
any accidental cause, the death of the shaman follows soon 
after. The " mother animal " keeps always to the same place, 
for which reason it may happen that a strange shaman sees it 
while shamanizing. If the latter is an enemy of the animal's 


owner, he frightens the animal so that it dies, v with fatal 
consequences to its owner (cf. similar beliefs of the Scandi- 
navian Lapps). 28 

A further proof that the shaman's " animal," which is 
regarded as his necessary escort and means of conveyance to 
the other world, is intimately connected with his soul, is to be 
found in the description of the last journe